First-year women lead the race toward Nationals

First-year women lead the race toward Nationals

The track and field team raked in five new school records and jockeyed for more national spots at the Midwest Classic hosted by Indiana Wesleyan University last weekend. 

The effort was spearheaded by a squad of underclassmen on the women’s team.  

Maria Maldonado, a first-year, started the record-breaking streak by topping her own school records set two weeks ago in the 60 and 200 meter races.  

Summer Cooper, also a first-year, followed suit with a record-breaking performance in the 600 meter event. In the 800, she came within a fraction of a second of GC alumna, Laura Harnish’s 15-year record.

Possibly the most notable performance of the day came in the women’s distance medley relay, in which Cooper, Annika Fisher, a first-year, Makayla Collier, a senior, and Alexsandra Fernandez, a junior, broke a longstanding Goshen College record set more than 14 years ago by almost a second, with a combined time of 12:32.97. 

The effort won them third place in the meet, and placed them fourth on the national list.  

The fifth Maple leaf record of the day came from a freshman on the men’s side, Thomas Fuentes, in the 60-meter hurdles, an event in which he finished fourth.

School records weren’t the only thing on the athletes’ minds last week. 

With only two more weeks left in the regular indoor season, the race to nationals is on. 

In order to limit the number of athletes at the national competition in Yankton, South Dakota, on March 3-6, the NAIA will invite only the top 16 athletes in each event to compete at the championship.  

As of Tuesday Feb. 9, 12 Goshen College athletes are in position to make the cut in 10 different events. 

Seven of them come from the women’s side.  

While GC sent three women to nationals last year to compete in race walking and weight throwing, it has been 11 years since a Maple Leaf woman made the championship in a running event. 

This year’s team is hoping they’ll have at least five runners representing GC in the nationals.   

Cooper and Fisher are the only first-year runners on Goshen’s current national team, but between the two of them, they are lined up to make a total of eight showings in five different events including the mile, 1k, 3k, distance medley relay and the 4×800 meter relay.   

Cooper, an Elkhart native who competed in track and cross country at Concord High School, credits the team atmosphere at GC with some of the women’s recent success.  

“My teammates push me to do better in my races which is something I never really had in highschool,” she said.  

Salvador Escamilla, a senior on the men’s team, notices the new energy that the eight runners who joined the women’s team this year have brought to the team.    

“They run with drive,” Escamilla said, “with the goal of competing, not just participating.”  

When asked how the men’s team feels about the recent success on the women’s side, Escamilla said, “iron sharpens iron.

While Cooper and the other women may be providing motivation for the men’s team, the encouragement goes both directions.  

Cooper, who was teammates with Escamilla back at Concord High School, said that when racing gets hard, she thinks of a question the senior asked the team at practice one day: “how bad do you want it?” 

“This saying pushes me to do better and work harder,” Cooper said.  

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Written by Sierra Ross Richer, Digital Editor

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