Two straight out-of-state meets for the track and field team have not slowed the athletes down. Eleven qualified for the NAIA indoor track championship this past weekend at the Missouri Southern Invitational in Joplin, Mo.
The team competed on both Friday and Saturday against the likes of NCAA Division II schools such as Emporia State University, Pittsburg State and Missouri Southern. “We knew going in it was going to be stiff competition and everyone would have to step up,” said Mike Kirkland, head women’s track coach. “Our competition takes track very seriously, but we competed head-to-head really well.”
Southwestern made the best of their trip as the Builders had a total of three automatic national qualifications and four provisional qualifications, after some speculation that the meet would be called off because of a winter storm. “The trip there ended up taking four hours and it usually takes two and a half hours,” said Kari Roth, psychology senior. “I think that gave us the mentality that we should make the trip worthwhile. I think everyone ran their hardest.”
Amy Pierson, nursing junior, placed first in the 800 meter run with a time of 2:15.25. With that time, she not only won the race, but locked up a qualification for Nationals. Pierson also contributed to the automatic qualification for Nationals in the Distance Medley Relay. Alyssa Carter, philosophy and religion senior, Anjaih Clemons, business junior, Jordan Unruh, nursing junior and Pierson combined for a time of 12:35.18 to lock up second place.
The 5000 meter run is not fit for the faint-hearted, but Andrew Topham, chemistry junior, topped the race as well as much of the competition as he finished in second with a time of 15:07.08. Topham, who clinched his spot at nationals, is picking up where he left off after a stellar cross country season in which he won the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Runner of the Year award.
In the Men’s Distance Medley Relay, Carrington Crum, elementary education sophomore, Conner Drendel, elementary education sophomore, Matt Perkins, computer science senior and Jimmy Bryant, business senior, combined for a time of 10:29.25 which was good enough to place second in the race. The four runners made a B standard qualification for Nationals with their efforts.
Roth, Clemons, Unruh and Pierson also qualified for a B standard for nationals with a time of 4:04.80 in the 4×400 meter relay. The combo finished first in the race, but fell short of an automatic national qualification by 1.3 seconds.
Unruh had a personal record of 1:31.04 in the 600 yard run to place fourth overall. It was bittersweet, though, as she fell short of the provisional qualifier by 0.04 seconds.
In the field events, both Paige Carswell, journalism junior, and Alex Hutchins, business administration senior, earned provisional distances. Carswell placed fourth in the triple jump with a distance of 36-3. Hutchins qualified with a distance of 52-4 in the 35# weight competition, which took him to finals but didn’t earn him a top six finish.
The athletes, overall, were pleased with how the meet turned out.
“The meet went really well,” said Frank Adelman, biology freshman. “We had a few people qualify make the A standard and some of our throwers did really well.”
“I think now everybody has a starting point and knows where they are at in their performance,” said Kirkland. “The goal each week is to improve on that. Sometimes the athletes have to let the event come to them.”
The track team travels to Norman, Ok. Feb. 6 to compete in its third indoor track meet of the season. Oklahoma Christian University is hosting the Invitational.
The NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championships will be March 4 through 6 in Johnson City, Tenn.