Women’s Track Ties for 10th at NCAA Indoor Championships - Men 32nd
Saturday, March 14, 2009
TERRE HAUTE, IN—The first-ever trip to the NCAA III Indoor Track and Field Championships for the Calvin men’s and women’s track and field teams produced four All-America performances and a top-10 national finish.
The Calvin women’s track and field team completed the two-day meet hosted by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology tied for 10th place with 14 points as the Knights recorded three All-America efforts. Meanwhile, the Calvin men’s track and field team tied for 32nd place with six points behind the All-America performance of senior Jed Christiansen (Greenville, PA/Greenville HS) in the 5,000 meter run.
The All-America performance by Christiansen is the sixth of his collegiate racing career. A four-time All-American in cross country, Christiansen also has an All-America performance in outdoor track and field, placing fifth in the 10,000 meters at last year’s national meet. In Saturday’s 5,000 meters, Christiansen made a strong challenge for a national title before finishing with a third place time of 14:34.25. Christiansen began the race near the back of the pack of the 14-member field but moved into the top five midway through the race. In the final 1200 meters, Christiansen moved into second place and began to to push leader Willy Kaul for the lead. With two laps remaining, Christiansen fell back into fifth place but then came up with a final surge in the final 200 meters to pass two runners and finish third. Kaul captured the race with a time of 14:31.46 while Dallas Vincent of Wisconsin-LaCrosse was second in 14:33.76.
“When Willy Kaul made a move halfway through the race, only one person went with him and that was Jed,” said Calvin distance coach Brian Diemer. “Jed made that race exciting and I am just extremely proud of him for going after first place the way he did. He ran with a lot of courage.”
The race proved to be a memorable one to those who witnessed it according to Al Hoekstra who also serves as Calvin’s distance coach. “We spoke with several veteran coaches after the meet and they all said that the men’s 5,000 meters was the most exciting 5,000 meter race indoors that they have ever seen. Jed Christiansen has had several tremendous races in his Calvin racing career but this one belongs right at the top of the list.”
On the women’s side, Calvin came up with three All-America performances during the meet including two on Saturday as senior Lauren Bergstrom (Rochester, MN/Century HS) took fourth in the mile run with a time of 4:59.50. The race was the third consecutive mile for Bergstrom in a span of 24 hours as she competed in the mile prelims on Friday afternoon and then ran the distance again in the distance medley relay finals Friday night. Bergstrom’s relay performance helped the Calvin distance medley relay finish sixth with an All-America time of 11:54.92. Bergstrom was joined on the distance medley relay team by junior Elizabeth Smit (Kirlkland, WA/Bellevue Christian HS), junior Nicole Farr (Warrenville, IL/Warrenville South HS) and junior Heather Koning (Kalamazoo Christian HS). Smit ran the 1200 meter leg of the relay with Koning running the second leg (400 meters), Farr the third leg (800 meters) and Bergstrom the anchor leg.
Bergstrom had also qualified for the national meet in the 800 meters where she was seeded second but chose to run the mile instead to give the distance medley relay team a chance to run at the national meet. “I am very proud of Lauren for the decision she made on what events to compete in,” said Hoekstra. “It was a very team-oriented decision that showed a great deal of maturity.”
In the mile run finals on Saturday, Bergstrom ran near the back of the pack, moved into the top eight with 800 meters to go and then moved up to fourth place in the final 200 meter lap. “The race was very slow and tactical but Lauren filled in the gaps whenever she needed to,” said Hoekstra. “I think the fact that this was her third mile in 24 hours kept her from making a real run at the top three spots but she gave it everything she had. We are all extremely proud of her.”
Calvin’s final All-America performance came from its 4x400 meter relay team of seniors Kristen Van Sickel (Pittsburgh, PA/Trinity Christian HS) and Sarah Wittingen (East Grand Rapids HS), sophomore Rachel Boerner (Bergenfield, NJ/Hillcrest Lutheran Academy) and Koning. The relay came in seeded 10th and was the final squad to make the field when the national field was announced Monday morning. The Knights moved up seven spots from their seed on Saturday however, finishing third with a season-best time of 3:53.44. Calvin finished third despite running the slower first heat of five teams. The Knights won the first heat with their time better than three teams that ran in the second heat.
The relay performance concluded the racing career of Wittingen who ran in Saturday’s race as a fifth-year senior. Combined, Wittingen recorded 11 All-America berths in her Calvin track and field career including 10 as an outdoor track and field athlete.
“I thought our 4x400 relay competed extremely well,” said Calvin head track coach Jong-il Kim. “All four members had their best performances of the indoor season and were not intimidated running in their first indoor nationals.”
Calvin nearly received an (top eight) All-America performance from senior Julie Bratt (Lynden, WA/Lynden Christian HS) in the triple jump with Bratt finishing ninth with a leap of 38-0. Bratt advanced to the finals (top nine) with her leap of 38-0 in the prelims but then had one competitor pass her in the finals for the final All-America spot. Bratt qualified for the national meet with a school record jump of 38-1 1/2 at a last-chance meet hosted by Carthage College a week ago.
“Julie has had an oustanding indoor season,” said Kim. “She has a chance to do extremely well this spring during the outdoor season and I am very proud of the way she has competed thus far this year.”
Of the nine athletes that represented Calvin at the indoor nationals, eight received All-America recognition. The meet marked Calvin’s first-ever representation at the indoor nationals.
“This was a great way to cap off a new season and sport for Calvin College,” said Hoekstra. “There was a lot of excitement generated with this group and we could not be happier with our first appearance at indoor nationals.”
Wartburg captured the women’s national indoor title with 51 points while Wisconsin-LaCrosse and Wisconsin-Oshkosh sharing the men’s title as each team finished with a first place total of 32 points.