Betsy Haverkamp wins national title, Tiemersma award
Betsy Haverkamp capped off her brilliant four-year cross country and track and field career in the best way possible--with a national championship.
At the NCAA III Track and Field Championships this spring, Haverkamp captured the national title in the 3,000 meters in a race that will go down as one of the all-time great performances in Calvin track and field history.
The South Christian High School (Grand Rapids) graduate entered the week of nationals as the top seed in the 3,000 and 5,000 but due to a hamstring injury, her status had been in doubt up until the weekend before nationals. Haverkamp opened the week Thursday night by winning the second heat of the 5,000 preliminaries to advance to Saturday's finals. On Friday evening, she competed in the 3,000.
Haverkamp ran in a pack of runners for the majority of the race but with two laps to go, Meredith Unger of Haverford College broke away and Haverkamp was the only runner to follow. Unger built a 50-meter lead on Haverkamp with one lap remaining but at the 300-meter mark, Haverkamp began to make a move. With 200 meters left, Haverkamp began to gain ground and at the final turn, she caught Unger and then exploded in a sprint down the final 100 meters to win the race in 9:57.62. In winning the national championship, Haverkamp became the third Calvin athlete in women's track and field history to win an individual national title, joining Angie Feinauer (1993-long jump) and Holly Breuker (1996-400 hurdles) as Calvin national champions. She also became the fourth female athlete in MIAA track and field history to win an individual national title.
Calvin distance coaches Brian Diemer and Al Hoekstra were ecstatic with Haverkamp's performance. "We told Betsy during the warmups that if she went through a period of doubt with two or three laps to go, that somehow, somewhere on the last lap, she'd find a little extra and that's exactly what happened," said Diemer. "Betsy dug down from the deepest part of her body and pulled the race out."
For Hoekstra, the race brought back memories of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials when Diemer won the 3,000 meter steeplechase in the final sprint after battling a stress fracture in his back for nearly three months. "After everything Betsy has been through with her hamstring injury, that was one of the greatest athletic achievements I've ever seen with the way she came back in the final 300 meters to win," said Hoekstra. "It was very reminiscent of Brian Diemer when he won the U.S. Olympic Trials after a stress fracture and then beat insurmountable odds. You can't possibly be more proud of an athlete when they can come back from adversity and then come through like a champion."
As for Haverkamp, the national title was a dream fulfilled. "I've always dreamed of winning a national championship," said Haverkamp. "I think I really started thinking about it seriously about seven years ago. To win this race was a dream come true. I want to thank God for giving me the ability to run and also thank my parents, coaches and teammates for all of the support they have given me over the past four years."
For an encore, Haverkamp went on to finish second in the 5,000 meters Saturday afternoon with a time of 17:28.85, finishing only behind five-time national champion Turena Johnson of Luther College. The second place finish was the third All-America berth of her track and field career and the seventh of her collegiate career as she had already earned four All-America certificates in cross country. "For Betsy to go out and win the 3,000 the way she did last night put her into some serious oxygen debt," said Diemer. "And yet she still came back 20 hours later to finish second in a hard 5,000 which was just incredible."
To complete her stellar career at Calvin, Haverkamp was recognized with the Kay Tiemersma Award, Calvin's highest honor for a woman student-athlete.