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Rachel Boerner Captures National Title in 400 Meters at NCAA III Indoor Track & Field Championships

Saturday, March 13, 2010

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NCAA III Indoor Track & Field Championships Site

(photos courtesy of DePauw University)

GREENCASTLE, IN—In a span of just one hour, the Calvin women’s track and field team crowned a national champion and a national runner-up Saturday afternoon at the NCAA III Indoor Track and Field Championships hosted by DePauw University. The national title came from junior Rachel Boerner in the 400 meters with a time of 55.95. The national runner-up berth came from junior Sarah Reasoner in the shot put (46-4). The pair of performances allowed the Knights to finish in 11th place at the national meet, just a half-point out of 10th.

A native of Bergenfield, New Jersey, Boerner (Hillcrest Lutheran Academy) is the first individual from Calvin to win a national title in indoor track and field. She is the ninth individual in Calvin women’s track and field history to win a national title overall including outdoor track and field competition.

The national championship finish by Boerner marks the fourth All-America performance of her collegiate career including her second indoors. A year ago, she was a member of Calvin’s third place 4x400 meter relay team at the NCAA III Indoor Track and Field Championships. Last May, she was second in the 400 meter hurdles at the NCAA III Outdoor Track and Field Championships. She also ran on Calvin’s fourth place 4x400 meter relay team at the 2008 NCAA III Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Boerner ran a flawless race according to head coach Bret Otte who has now helped coach three individual national champions at Calvin as he was an assistant in helping Holly Breuker win a national title in the women’s 400 meter hurdles and J.D. Stien a national crown in the decathlon at the 1996 NCAA III Outdoor Championships. “Rachel ran a perfect race,” said Otte. “With 150 meters left, she made a surge and took the lead. She put a huge gap on the field and the field couldn’t answer her.”

Robin Yerkes of Roanoke was the early leader in the race and finished second in a time of 56.04. After taking the lead from Yerkes 250 meters into the race, Boerner fought off a final surge from Yerkes in the closing stretch. “Rachel just dug down and found another gear,” said Otte. “Throughout the race, she never put herself in trouble tactically. She was always in the right position at the right time and I am thrilled to see her win a national title.”

Boerner also felt good about her performance. “To me it felt like the perfect race from the start,” said Boerner. “Establishing a personal-best (time) was truly an awesome feeling especially at the national meet. I hung with the lead pack and took the lead with around 150 meters to go. I made my move and it felt good.”

Within minutes of the conclusion of Boerner’s race, the women’s shot put competition began and Reasoner (Cambridge, MN/Cambridgi-Isanti HS) was quick to build off the momentum of her teammate, unleashing an opening series of throws of 42-8 3/4, 45-3 1/2 and 46-4. Her final throw of the opening round (46-4) was a career-best and vaulted her into second place. In the finals, Reasoner followed with throws of 45-8, 44-9 and 46-2.  Her throw of 46-4 in the opening round ended up as the second-best performance of the competition, keeping her a half-inch ahead of Holly Ozanich of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Ozanich was one of three All-American shot putters from Wisconsin-Oshkosh on Saturday but Reasoner finished ahead of all three with just three-and-a-half inches seperating spots two-through-five. Alyssa Pirinelli of St. Lawrence won the competition with a throw of 48-0.

Perhaps most remarkable about the Reasoner finish on Saturday was the fact that she qualified for the national meet with a throw of 44-7 1/2 at a last-chance meet eight days prior in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“The thing that Sarah learned how to do over the last two weeks was how to compete at a high level,” said Calvin throws coach Norm Zylstra. “Today she was ready to compete at a high level which is very important to succeed at a national meet.”

Watching the performance of Boerner moments before the start of the shot put competition also provided a huge lift said Zylstra. “At a national meet indoors, everything is nearby. Rachel finished the 400 meters literally 10 feet away from where the shot put ring is. Sarah saw Rachel win a national title and there is no doubt that she received an emotional lift from her teammate. That was a special aspect of this meet.”

The All-America berth is the second of Reasoner’s track and field career as she placed eighth in the shot put at the 2009 NCAA III Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

On the men’s side, senior Jed Christiansen (Greenville, PA/Greenville HS) closed out his collegiate career with a 10th place finish in the 5,000 meters with a time of 15:03.54. Christiansen entered the race seeded fourth but was unable to fight off the lingering effects of a foot injury suffered late in the indoor season.

“I think everyone in the Calvin track and field program is proud of Jed with the way he competed today,” said Otte. “He has not been completely healthy but he did not use that as an excuse. He never quit and represented Calvin well.”

Representing Calvin well is something Christiansen has done throughout his collegiate career said Calvin distance coaches Brian Diemer and Al Hoekstra. “I know Jed was hoping for a higher finish but he has nothing to be ashamed of today,” said Diemer. “He is a competitor through and through and he gave it everything he had. His body just wasn’t willing to respond.”  According to Hoekstra, Christiansen will go down as one of the greatest distance runners in Calvin history. “There’s no doubt that Jed is one of the all-time greats,” said Hoekstra. “He was a four-time All-American in cross country which is extremely rare and a multiple All-American in track and field. His honors and accomplishments speak for themselves but I think the thing that stands out to me about Jed is his desire to strive to be the best that he could be. He set an example for the other runners in our program to never settle for anything but the very best.”

In addition to being a four-time All-American in cross country, Christiansen was a four-time track and field All-American - doing so three times in outdoor track and field and once in indoor track and field.

Otte also offered words of appreciation for the Calvin fans who made the trek to Greencastle and to the host institution - DePauw University. “I really want to thank our fans - many of them who were members of our team who drove down on their own to cheer our athletes on,” said Otte. “They were clearly the most enthusiastic group of fans at the meet and they were much appreciated. I also want to thank DePauw University for being such a wonderful host. Everything they did this weekend was first class and that also includes the entire city of Greencastle. Their hospitality was second-to-none and it made this weekend a special event for our athletes, coaches and fans.”

In the women’s meet, Wartburg captured the national championship with 33 points while North Central captured the men’s national indoor title with 52.3 points.

CALVIN WOMEN’S TRACK AND FIELD INDIVIDUAL NATIONAL CHAMPIONS

Angie Feinauer, Long Jump (1993)
Holly Breuker, 400 meters (1996)
Betsy Haverkamp, 3,000 meters (1997)
Megan Pierce, 400 Meters (1999 & 2000)
Lindsay Mulder, Long Jump (2001)
Annie VanderLaan, Heptathlon (2003)
Christine Hendricks, Heptathlon (2006)
Sarah Wittingen, 400 Meter Hurdles (2008)
Rachel Boerner, 400 Meters (indoor-2010)

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