Jensen Claims All-America Berth in Hammer Throw at NCAA III Championships
Friday, May 23, 2008
OSHKOSH, WI—Calvin picked up one All-America berth and advanced two individuals into Saturday’s finals on the second day of competition at the NCAA III Outdoor Track and Field Championships hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Senior Ryan Jensen of Grand Rapids Northview High School highlighted the day for Calvin with an eighth place and All-American throw of 177-0 in the hammer throw competition. Jensen is the first hammer throw All-American in Calvin history.
A history major at Calvin, Jensen was ecstatic about making history for the Knights Friday evening. “I was just hoping to make (top-nine) the finals,” said Jensen. “To be an All-American (top eight) is unbelievable. I have a lot of people to thank for helping me get to this point, my coaches, my teammates, my professors…they’ve all been a huge blessing.”
Jensen’s All-America berth was a bit of a roller coaster ride as he slipped into the finals by grabbing the ninth and final berth with a throw of 171-0 in the prelims. In the finals, Jensen moved up to seventh place with his second of three throws but then fell back to ninth when two competitors passed him in their next throws. In the final throw of his collegiate career, Jensen uncorked his best throw of the day to move back into eighth place for an All-America berth.
“I could not be happier for Ryan,” said Calvin throwing coach Norm Zylstra. “He has grown so much as an athlete and as a person at Calvin. As a high school athlete, he never qualified for the state finals and today was his first national meet at the collegiate level so for him to perform like this is pretty remarkable.”
Although the hammer throw is an NCAA event, it is not yet an MIAA event. “Ryan has pretty much done this on his own as far as competition is concerned,” said Zylstra. “And even though the hammer is not yet a conference event, I want to thank our administrators (women’s A.D.) Nancy Meyer and (former men’s A.D.) Marv Zuidema for allowing us to put up a hammer cage at Calvin some years ago and start training in the event. I also want to thank our head coach Dr. Jong-il Kim for purchasing hammer equipment and supporting our throwers and this event. It has meant a lot.”
The All-America performance by Jensen also created a unique family dynamic as his wife Lauren (formerly Colyn) Jensen recorded an All-America performance in the high jump last year which ironically was held at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
“That will be something fun for us to talk about,” said (Ryan) Jensen. “My wife has encouraged me a lot this year and it will be special to look back on the fact that we were both All-Americans at this track.” Jensen’s throw boosted Calvin’s team total to five points, leaving the Knights in 25th place.
The Calvin men had two other competitors run on Friday with junior Nate DeHaan (South Christian HS) competing in the 3,000 meter steeplechase and senior Jared Cok (Bozeman, MT) running in the 400 meter prelims. Cok just missed advancing to Saturday’s finals, clocking in with a time of 48.67 that was good for 10th place. DeHaan was seeded fourth in the event but ended up taking 13th in a time of 9:23.34. DeHaan caught a tough break in the race as he was spiked in the opening 200 meters, lost his shoe and was forced to run the final seven laps with only one shoe on. Despite the setback, DeHaan sat in fourth place with only two laps to go but faded in the final 800 meters.
“That was a pretty courageous race by Nate DeHaan,” said Calvin distance coach Brian Diemer, a bronze medalist in the steeplechase in the 1984 Summer Olympics. “Things like that happen in the steeplechase and ufortunately tonight it happened to Nate. We are still very proud of his heart and determination to finish the race and give it everything he had.”
On the women’s side, Calvin senior Sarah Wittingen (East Grand Rapids HS) advanced into Saturday’s finals in the 100 meter hurdles with a season-best time of 14.46. Wittingen clocked in with the eighth-best time of the prelims. She will also compete in the 400 meter hurdles and in the 4x400 meter relay on Saturday. Junior Lauren Bergstrom (Rochester, MN) also qualified for Saturday’s finals in the 800 meters, clocking the eight-best time out of the prelims with a time of 2:11.77. Junior Heather Koning (Kalamazoo Christian HS) also competed in the prelims of the 400 meters but did not advance, clocking in with a time of 57.80.
Also scheduled to compete for Calvin on Saturday are junior Jed Christiansen (Greenville, PA) in the men’s 5,000 meters, senior Christina Overbeck (Seattle, WA) in the women’s 5,000 meters and junior Julie Bratt (Lynden, WA) in the women’s triple jump.