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Wheaton athletes excel at Indoor Track & Field Nationals

March 15 2018
Last weekend, nine impressive Wheaton athletes competed at the 2018 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Birmingham Crossplex in Alabama. The nine competitors consisted of three members and one relay of the Thunder women’s program and two individuals from the Wheaton men’s program. The Thunder women placed 41st out of the 105-team field and the Wheaton men came in 53rd against 98 other teams.
Wheaton saw plenty of success throughout the entire weekend. Wheaton women’s distance medley relay consisting of sophomore Marissa Heath, freshman Hannah Roeske, junior Erika Johnson and freshman Brianna Hawthorne took eighth place with a time of 11:51.92. In the semi-finals of the 60-meter hurdles, sophomore Favor Ezewuzie ran a time of 8.93 seconds to take second place in her heat and score seventh overall. This finish ensured her a spot in the finals in which she ran a time of 8.92 seconds to secure her sixth place finish.
Junior Leif Van Grinsven participated in the first four of seven events in the men’s heptathlon. In the 60-meter dash, Van Grinsven ran a time of 7.43 seconds to acquire 736 points. He earned 628 points in the long jump with a leap of 6.19 meters. In the shot put he recorded a throw of 11.49 meters to collect 575 points and his jump of 1.75 meters in the high jump earned him 585 points. Van Grinsven was 13th in the competition with 2,524 points on Friday before he withdrew from the competition for Saturday’s final three disciplines.
Freshman Hannah Roeske set a new school record in the women’s 3,000-meter run with a time of 9:44.34. This time earned her an eighth place spot on the podium out of a 17-woman field.
Senior Collin Gray also found a spot on the podium as he placed sixth in the men’s high jump with a leap of 2.06 meters. Junior Katie Lindquist finished 12th in the women’s high jump clearing a height of 1.60 meters.
Wheaton saw many of its athletes recognized as All-American athletes as the top eight finishers in each event at Nationals earn the honor. The relay quartet of Marissa Heath, Hannah Roeske, Erika Johnson and Brianna Hawthorne became All-Americans as a group and Roeske also earned the honor individually for her performance in the 3000-meter run. Ezewuzie earned All-American recognition for her speed in the 60-meter hurdles. Gray became a two-time All-American in the high jump, also earning the title at the 2016 Division III Outdoor Championships.
Alongside of displaying incredible athletic ability, Wheaton Thunder’s track and field athletes enjoyed sharing the entire experience of the Nationals Meet with those around them. Gray emphasized, “The national championship meet is always a great event with a lot of anticipation around it. It is a chance to see friends from around the country that we have built relationships with through the years and watch the best athletes in every event get to compete against each other. I think more than anything the national championship meet just brings an excitement that is unparalleled because it is the culmination of a season’s worth of hard work and the chance to get to test yourself against the best competitors from around the country.” He continued, “The highlight for me was watching the women’s team achieve such great success and rise to the occasion with their best performances.”
Hawthorne shared about her perspective of the meet as a freshman. “It was an experience like none I’ve ever had before. Although I was fairly nervous, I kept reminding myself that this was just the icing on top of the cake. We had done the hard work of making it to nationals and now we just got the chance to enjoy it. The highlight of the trip for me was thinking we had gotten ninth and missed the last All-American spot, but then looking to the big screen and seeing our name listed eighth and seeing my teammates’ faces light up. Then being able to stand on the podium alongside those girls was an experience like I’ve never had before.” She added, “I also really enjoyed watching my teammate Hannah run the incredible, smart, tough race that she ran in the 3000 meter the following day. It’s always a joy to see people I love and look up to succeed in the way she did.”
Roeske shared her excitement from the meet, “It is difficult to choose a highlight of the weekend. The whole experience is one that I will never forget! I am so grateful that I was able to share it with teammates! Standing on the podium, we were truly living a dream that we had worked so hard for. We each ran with all that God gave us, and he blessed it!”
Wheaton’s Track and Field teams are now looking forward to moving into the outdoor season.  Hawthorne shared she’s especially excited to try new events in the outdoor season. “I have never run a 1500 on the track before or the 3000-meter Steeplechase, which both are definite possibilities. Mostly I am just excited for more fun memories made with the team!” Other teammates expressed an excitement to compete outside in hopefully warmer weather. Gray added, “I’m especially looking forward to the two outdoor meets that we get to host here at Wheaton.  [They] are always a highlight of the outdoor season for us as a team.” Those two Wheaton hosted meets will be held on Apr. 7 and Apr. 21. Before then, however, the Wheaton Thunder will kick off their outdoor track and field season with the Augusta Early Spring Opener on Mar. 24 in Rock Island, Illinois.

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