Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NCAA D3 Indoor Track and Field Nationals 2012

For the first time I had the opportunity to go watch indoor nationals. It was a great experience! Then again, I am a track nerd so I get really excited about this stuff. To set the stage let me tell you that we have one particular sprinter at the University of Dubuque that is rather good. He squeaked into nationals this year by setting the school record in the 60 meter dash several times. No one else on our team qualified.

Day One:

I am not a sprint coach or a sprinter. I ran a 28.52 200m this winter in a race. However, I would easily drive three hours to watch one of the athletes I know run for less than seven seconds. So the other distance coach and myself drove down Friday afternoon to Grinnell.

It was expensive to get in, $10. They had official wrist bands with holograms. It felt very classy. We struggled to find the indoor track because Grinnell has huge facilities and you have to wind down and around to find anything. However once we finally arrived we realized their track is amazing! The building is huge with stands on the outside and external jump pits and windows. Those three things determine the basics of an indoor facility versus an amazing indoor facility.

We proceeded to watch the races. One of the day one surprises was how slow Ben Sheets ran. He came in the fastest in the 800 and mile by two seconds in each event. He was the clear favorite, but he became sick a few days before and despite running a 1:54 and 4:18 he did not advance to the finals.

When they ran the 60m prelimbs our runner, Dav, made it to the finals in his "worst" race of the season. He was pretty upset about it, but he did make it into finals, and that is better than half the people that lined up for the 60 Friday.

We watched the DMR from the corner between the strait-away and start curve. We were beside the Middlebury coaches and chatted up with them a little bit during the women's race, which they won. Then during the men's race there was an incredibly close finish between Bowdoin and UW Stevens Point. The latter closed incredibly fast but did not make it to first. Of interesting note the Wabash team dropped the baton in the first 15 meters and the 1200m runner took off but the writing was on the wall, they were probably not going to be top eight and All-Americans because of it. So their last runner, who was also in the mile final the next day jogged his leg more or less and they were last place.

There was a WPI runner there in the women's 400 and I was ten feet away at the start but I did not get the chance to talk to her or to my college coach. Oh well, I'll be at more nationals in the future. Next up is D1 nationals at Drake in June.

We went to a steakhouse on the south side of town and grilled our steaks ourself, except a few people in our group ordered chicken sandwiches, and since they were busy it took them 90 minutes to bring the sandwiches out. Also at the steak house was the North Central coaching team. They must have close to a dozen coaches. While we grilled I chatted up the Worcester State coach and runner. It was nice to talk about familiar people and places. Then we drove home and made it by about 12:30. A long drive home.

Day Two:

After going into the office, going to a coffee shop to fulfill my Internet lust, and running half a track workout we were off with two of our athletes who came to watch. The drive down was pleasant again. In no particular order:

I had the chance to spend some time talking to the Wartburg distance coach and one of his runners. I won't name the runner but I was talking with another person in the row behind that if we were in a race with big screens we would be watching ourselves and when this runner raced some of the runner's attention was totally on the big screens. I probably had nothing to do with it, but it was kind of funny because we did make the comment and then it totally happened.

In the women's mile we were at the end of the backstretch and watched as the runner from Washington tripped and fell and proceeded to get up and tear off hammering around the track and end up second. It was impressive. There were skin marks on the track where she fell and then she got up and still raced to second place. The winner was a woman from UW Oshkosh who at 27 or 28 years old with two kids ran everyone else into the ground.

In the men's mile the Wabash runner who jogged his leg of the DMR ran with the pack until the last 200 or 400 and took and blew everyone away. Was ruining his team's chance of being All-American so that he could win the mile worth it? Probably, there are eight All-Americans in every event but only one champion. In second place was Klein from UW Platteville. It's nice to see him do well because we see him race fairly often so it's nice to know that when he solos a 8:30s 3k that is an indication of his strength in the mile.

In the women's 800 Keelie Finnel of Coe, who we see race pretty often lost out to the same runner from UW Oshkosh. In the men's 800 the runner from St. Thomas won in the last 100 meters. Of note he has a brother who is a sub 4 miler. I am sure he has different standards of fast than most.

In the men's 5k Tim Nelson won, which was really exciting. He was the only person in the field that I know. He has just developed over the years and months and the way that he ran that race was inspiring. He led most of the first half, not looking comfortable. Then after a little time drafting pushed the pace the last 1200 or so to run a nine second PR to 14:11. He ran low 14, off the front, leading most of the way on an uneven pace. I'll tell you what, I hope that he gets a 12 second PR in outdoor.

In the women's 5k I was rooting for the Wartburg women and I was totally confused that they were running out in lane two the first mile. But after they passed that slowly in 5:40 Alana took off with Laura right behind and soon enough they were alone and then Laura took off again to run the last 1800 in 6:02 or something. Wartburg went one and two in that race. That is awesome because we see them race fairly often.

Finally in the event that I came down for, the 60 meters, Dav ran a race that was rather disappointing for him. Had he ran it six weeks ago it would be a school record, as it was he was 8th of 8. It was good enough to get his 5th All-American award, but clearly disappointing. I didn't even talk to him about it afterward.

Here is a link to the results.

Congratulations to all competitors! You all did very well and I hope that your experiences have been fulfilling, but that you also desire to improve. You are all very inspiring to a slow poke like me and it just gives me more motivation to put on the spikes and get out there racing. Thank you for the performances!

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