After a month and a half of competing at indoor track and field meets, the Builders will stay close to home March 11 when they host the Southwestern College Invitational. Because of the campus stadium reconstruction, the home meet will be at Cowley College. The meet kicks off the outdoor track and field season, which will run until the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Championships May 27 in Marion, In.
Athletes competing at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships arrived back in Winfield Sunday afternoon. The competition lasted March 4-6 in Johnson City, Tenn. Those athletes who qualified during the regular indoor season helped the women’s track and field team place in their highest team finish since 1997. The team earned eight points and placed 19th out of 42 teams that scored. “There were nearly 90 NAIA women’s teams represented with athletes competing at the meet,” said Mike Kirkland, head women’s track coach. “It was very gratifying to watch our athletes compete against some of the best in the nation.”
The team came away from nationals with two All-American runners. Amy Pierson, nursing junior, and Jimmy Bryant, business administration senior, both achieved All-American status in the 1,000 meter run.
Pierson not only finished second in the race to become national runner-up, but set a new school record with a time of 2:52.85. “It was an inspiring performance,” said Kirkland. “She ended up running five races over three days and that is asking a lot. She was incredible.” Pierson also received the NAIA Champion of Character award for the Southwestern women’s track and field team.
One of Bryant’s goals going into nationals was to break the school record. “Even if I didn’t get the All-American position I wanted to break the school record, which was 2:29.92,” said Bryant. His final time read 2:29.16. “I really wanted to put everything I had in my individual event, which was the 1000,” said Bryant. “This was my last indoor event so I wanted to do something special. Coach just told me to hang on as long as I could and luckily I beat out two people and got the last All-American spot.”
Jim Helmer, head men’s track and field coach, was gratified that Bryant was able to achieve what he did. “He is a senior and you want your seniors to finish in a big way,” said Helmer. “To break a school record and get an All-American position is a really great thing.”
In the women’s 4×400 meter relay, Pierson, Anjaih Clemons, business junior, Kari Roth, psychology senior, and Jordan Unruh, nursing junior, combined for a time of 3:58.26. They finished 11th overall and broke a 15 year old school record. “They improved that record by about two seconds,” said Kirkland. “That is the sixth school record the women’s team has broken this indoor season.”
The distance medley relay team, consisting of Pierson, Clemons, Unruh, and Alyssa Carter, philosophy and religious studies senior, also ran well in their races. Their total time of 12:22.87 in the preliminary race allowed them to advance to the finals, where they placed eighth out of 28 teams. “That was an outstanding performance on their part,” said Kirkland. “Last year we missed the finals in the distance medley relay by about a half a second.”
Paige Carswell, journalism junior, was ranked 16th in the nation in the triple jump event going into nationals. Her distance of 37’ 2.5” not only allowed her to finish in the number 14 spot, but was also a new career best jump for her.
In the men’s events, Andrew Topham, biology junior, finished 16th out of 34 competitors in the 5000 meter preliminaries. His time was 15:07.08. “Everyone was focused and ready to roll, but Andrew was not healthy going into the meet,” said Helmer. “It was disappointing because he was ready to run as fast as he ever had.”
Topham did help the men’s distance medley relay team finish 18th out of 26 with a time of 10:25.92. The team consisted of Topham, Bryant, Conner Drendel, elementary education sophomore, Carrington Crum, elementary education sophomore, and Matt Perkins, computer science senior.
In the men’s 35# weight throw, Alex Hutchins, business administration senior, ended his indoor career fouling all three of his throws in preliminaries.