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., at the University of Nebraska’s DeVaney Center.
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, while Huseman skied to 6-10.75 feet for a victory in the high jump. Both men will compete at the national meet in Geneva, Ohio, on 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, and at the end of the day, 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 and senior Brandon Hammack finished fifth and seventh, respectively in the 60-meter.
Junior Kyle Heidebrink placed sixth in the 60-meter hurdles, which he ran in 8.52 seconds.
Dunk and Hammack earned third and fourth-place finishes in the 200-meter, separated by less than a tenth of a second. Hammack also earned a seventh-place finish in 400-meter. He received all-conference honors in three events for the Raiders.
“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 tired is going to be there, but it is how you overcome it that sets you apart from everyone else.”
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 meet the provisional qualifying time again in the 1000-meter. He ran it 2:32. Junior Zach Wittenberg crossed the line in 2:38 and finished seventh in the same event.
“My mindset now is to continue to stay focused on what we are training for,” Hovland said. “We have a week before we leave for the national meet and we all need realize that what we do these next few days is the training that we’ll be depending on at nationals.”
Wittenberg then 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.
Freshman Callie Buske placed 10th in the 600-meter after she crossed the line in 1:43.
Junior Jackie Niewenhuis received one of her three all-conference honors by placing fifth in the 800-meter while senior Brianna Hobbs placed seventh.
Junior Dawn Gildersleeve met the provisional qualifying time again in the 1,000-meter. She posted a time of 3:03.
Senior Amy Van Skike pushed her way to an eighth-place finish in the mile.
The 4×400 relay of Niewenhuis, freshman Sarah Wedel, Lauren Spranger and Buske finished in 4:09 giving them seventh place.
NW’s 4×800 squad finished in an impressive fifth-place. Hobbs, Niewenhuis, Spranger and senior Leslie Stover cleared the NAIA-automatic qualifying standard by a whole 10 seconds, speaking highly of the quality competitors the GPAC has in the 800-meter distance.
“The GPAC is arguably the most talented conference in the NAIA when it comes to (men’s and women’s) track,” Hovland said, “so you know you have to bring it when you race.”
Sophomore Kaitlin Floerchinger long jumped 16-10.5 feet. That was good enough for fifth-place and an all-conference nod in her first season with the track program.