The Maple Leafs athletes had a successful weekend at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field Nationals held in Geneva, Ohio. Seven athletes competed at the event and four of them got All-American honors.In the race walking event, six of the seven competitors on the team qualified for the 3,000-meter race. These athletes were juniors Mitchell Brickson, Kolton Nay, Brad Sandlin, Michelle Moyer, sophomore Abby Dunn and first-year Kayla Gray.
In the women’s race walk, Dunn got fifth after finishing the race with a time of 15:09.64. Dunn earned her third All-American honor in her college career.
Meanwhile, Maine race walker Gray made her debut at Nationals with a 16th place finish with a time of 16:32.66. Gray improved her previous best by more than ten seconds.
Hesston transfer student Michelle Moyer also made her first championship appearance, finishing in 19th position with a time of 16:58.49.
In the men’s race, the three Goshen College participants earned All-American honor after finishing fourth, fifth and seventh. This is the first time in the program history that three race walkers earn this status at the same event.
Brickson was the first Maple Leaf athlete to finish the 3,000-meter and he got his fifth career All-American honor after taking fourth place with a time of 13:58.62.
Nay got fifth place in his championship debut with a time of 14:24.43.
Another championship debut was made by Sandlin, who finished seventh with a time of 14:31.45.
In his first appearance, Nay took more than 20 seconds off his career best getting the first All-American honor in his career. Even though he took fifth, Nay was not happy with the race.
“I know I could have done a lot better,” he said. “I decided to set a really high goal for myself, so I was gunning for 13:30 at nationals.”
Before the race, Nay recognized that he was nervous and excited because it was his first competition at a national level. “But when I started the race, I just felt tired,” he said.
“By the 1K mark I was exhausted, but I hung on right behind my teammate Mitchell Brickson, who was also going for 13:30.”
During the race, Nay got the first red card of his career and that played a major factor his race.
“It was weird for me to get warnings and a red card on my form, because I’d never gotten a red card before,” Nay said. “I’m not sure if my form was just lacking that day, if the judges were tougher because it was nationals, or if they laid special attention to me because I was in fifth place. But getting carded scared me, and I didn’t want to push myself too hard for fear of getting disqualified.”
Ryan Smith, a first-year, also participated in the NAIA Track and Field Nationals. Smith ran the mile, finishing 17th with a time of 4:33.38.
The next event for GC Track and Field will be the Maple Leaf Invitational on March 29. This home event will be the start of the outdoor season for the Leafs.