The best track and field athletes in the GPAC convened at the annual indoor conference meet last Friday and Saturday. The event was held in Lincoln, Neb.
“Conference is one of the most exciting meets of the year,” said junior hurdler Kyle Heidebrink. “It was fun to go out and compete against good teams that we haven’t seen yet.”
Juniors Jeriah Dunk and Matt Huseman each took home conference crowns for the Northwestern squad. Dunk ran the 60-meter dash in 6.95 seconds, and Huseman skyed to 6-10.75 feet for a victory in the high jump. Both men will compete at the national meet in Geneva, Ohio, Feb. 28–March 2.
“I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I can go seven feet (at nationals),” Huseman said. “It’s just putting everything together. My best effort is all that God requires.”
There were plenty of other notable performances for the Raider squad. The top-eight individuals in each event received all-conference honors.
Junior Jesse Selgeby finished fifth in the 60-meter.
Heidebrink placed sixth in the 60-meter hurdles, which he ran in 8.52 seconds.
Dunk and senior Brandon Hammack earned third– and fourth-place finishes in the 200-meter, and were separated by less than a tenth of a second. Tired legs are on the minds of multi-event runners.
“Fatigue is going to happen whether you have three races or just one,” Hammack said. “The trick is to compete fearlessly no matter what.”
The Raiders had a strong showing in the 600-meter, as well. Senior Brandon Schuler, junior Austin King and sophomore Scott Strand were separated by less than a second as they locked up sixth through eighth place.
Sophomore Taylor Bodin ran his 800-meter race in 1:56 and finished fourth. Sophomore Skyler Giddings was in fifth place and posted a time of 1:57.
Sophomore Logan Hovland met the provisional qualifying time in the 1,000-meter. He ran it 2:32 and finished second.
“My mindset now is to continue to stay focused on what we are training for,” Hovland said. “We all need realize that what we do these next few days is the training that we’ll be depending on at nationals.”
Junior Zach Wittenberg joined with freshmen Kyle Anderson, Elliot Johnson and Elliot Stoltz to place another automatic qualifying time in the 4×800. They finished second on Saturday.
The women’s side had positive showings in the middle and long distance races on Saturday.
Junior Jackie Niewenhuis received one of her three all-conference honors by placing fifth in the 800-meter.
Junior Dawn Gildersleeve met the provisional qualifying time again in the 1,000-meter. She posted a time of 3:03.
NW’s 4×800 squad finished in an impressive fifth-place. Senior Brianna Hobbs, Niewenhuis, freshman Lauren Spranger and senior Leslie Stover cleared the NAIA-automatic qualifying standard by 10 seconds.
“The GPAC is arguably the most talented conference in the NAIA when it comes to track,” Hovland said.
Sophomore Kaitlin Floerchinger long jumped 16-10.5 feet. That was good enough for fifth place, and an all-conference nod.