Nick Kramer Captures National Title in 3,000 Meter Steeplechase at NCAA III Championships
Saturday, May 26, 2012
CLAREMONT, CA -Calvin College senior Nick Kramer captured the national title in the 3,000 meter steeplechase tradition Saturday afternoon at the NCAA III Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Claremont-Mudd Scripps College. A native of Dyer, Indiana, Kramer took first in a school record time of 8:51.01, breaking the previous Calvin record of 8:51.30 set by John Lumkes in 1990.
Kramer is the third national champion in the men’s steeplechase from Calvin, joining Lumkes (1990) and Pat McNamara (1989). He is the first men’s track and field national champion from Calvin since J.D. Stein took the decathlon national title in 1996.
A graduate of Illiana Christian High School, Kramer grabbed the lead midway through the race and continued to widen the gap as the race progressed. He finished three-and-a-half seconds ahead of runner-up Jack Davies of Middlebury College who clocked in with a time of 8:54.61.
“It’s just a gift from God,” said Kramer of the national title after the race. “I’m truly blessed to be coached by distance coaches in Brian Diemer and Al Hoekstra. Having someone like Brian who has such an insight into this race and having someone like Al who provides the encouragement I need has been invaluable. I’ve struggled through some injuries over the last year and that has helped me realize how much a blessing it is to run and compete.”
It marks the third straight year that Kramer has claimed All-America honors in the steeplechase. He took fourth in the race at the 2010 national meet and third at the 2011 national meet.
Later in the meet, he came back to claim an All-America spot in the 5,000 meters, placing eighth in a time of 14:39.35, marking the third straight year he has claimed All-America honors in both the steeplechase and 5,000 meters at the outdoor national meet. His feat this year might be the most impressive however as he ran both races on the same day. In prior years, the steeplechase final was run on Friday night with the 5,000 meters run on Saturday. In addition, Kramer also had to run a Thursday night prelim in the steeplechase with this year’s national meet featuring steeplechase prelims for the first time because of an increased field size.
“What Nick Kramer did today was incredible,” said Al Hoekstra. “To run two grueling races on the same afternoon and win a national championship and be a two-time All-American is remarkable. Nick is a special individual with incredible focus and determination.”
Brian Diemer agreed. “You could tell before the steeplechase that Nick was ready to go,” said Diemer. “I know that winning a (steeplechase) has been a goal of his and so was breaking the (Lumkes) record. Once Nick got out on the track, he was like a hungry horse who could smell the hay in the barn. There was no stopping him.”
Kramer was one of two steeplechase All-Americans from Calvin on Saturday as junior Alyssa Penning of Grand Rapids Christian High School took fifth in the women’s race with a career-best time of 10:40.00. Penning is the fourth individual in Calvin women’s track and field history to earn All-America honors in the steeplechase, joining Sarah Hastings (2005), Elizabeth Smit (2010) and Gretchen Braymer (2011).
“Alyssa Penning had a tremendous race,” said Diemer. “She ran with focus and she ran with confidence. She was made for the steeplechase and to see her come away as an All-American today is phenomenal.”
Al Hoekstra also praised Penning. “Alyssa is starting to realize how good she can be as a runner, particularly in this race,” said Hoekstra. “We are all so proud of the way she ran today and we are excited to see what she can do next year as a senior as well.
In the women’s 5,000 meters, Calvin senior Jodi Hoekstra (Homer Glen, IL/Chicago Christian HS) closed out her collegiate career as a track and field All-American, placing eighth with a time of 17:16.60. Hoekstra ran in the lead pack for the first half of the race before falling back in the final 1,000 meters but holding on for the eighth and final All-America slot. Hoekstra finishes her Calvin career with two All-America berths in her career as she was also an NCAA III All-American in cross country this past fall. Sophomore Nicole Michmerhuizen (Holland/Holland Christian HS) also competed in the women’s 5,000 meters, placing 19th with a time of 17:52.88.
“Jodi Hoekstra has had a fantastic running career at Calvin,” said Diemer. “She went for it today and as a senior, that’s all you can ask. I’m sure she would have liked to have placed a little higher but to finish your career as an All-American is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Hoekstra is the first All-American in the women’s 5K from Calvin since Betsy Haverkamp accomplished the feat in 1997.
In the men’s 1,500 meters, junior Greg Whittle (Galesburg, IL/Galseburg HS) made a bid for a top-eight finish, moving into the top three spots with a lap to go but faded down the stretch for an 11th place finish in a time of 3:59.73.
Junior Matt Vander Roest (Ann Arbor/Ann Arbor Huron HS) and senior Dan Kerr (Petoskey/Petoskey HS) also ran in the men’s 5,000 meters on Saturday with Vander Roest placing 13th (14:44.21) and Kerr 14th (14:46.46).
Junior Aaron Meckes (Bay City/Saginaw Valley Lutheran HS) also competed in the men’s shot put and placed 13th with a throw of 52-9 1/2.
As a team, the Calvin men finished in 17th place with 15 points. The Calvin women finished in 48th place with five points.