On Friday, Mar 11, the Goshen College Maple Leafs sent three participants to the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championship at the GaREAT Sports Complex in Geneva, Ohio.
Erin Helmuth, Jacob GunderKline and Matthew Webster were the only Maple Leafs to qualify for nationals. All three performed quite well, coming away with All American honors and two new school records respectively.
This was Helmuth’s first season participating in the 3K race walk. She was also the first to compete on Friday; she was seeded 9th entering the 13-member field. The sophomore improved upon her initial seed and finished 6th overall. Helmuth received All American honors, making this the 5th year in a row that Goshen College has had a female All American in the indoor race walk.
“I did receive All American honors with my new personal record time of 15:51,” said Helmuth. “This was over a minute improvement from my incoming qualifying time of 17:04.” She had done better than her qualifying time when practicing for Nationals, so she thought she’d do better, but not by so much. “I was kind of shocked at my time when I saw it, it was definitely better than I could have ever hoped for coming in,” she said.
The men’s race walk immediately followed the women’s, and GunderKline, also a sophomore, lined up for his race. GunderKline was also seeded 9th in a very competitive field. The top four times in this years’ competition all beat last years’ championship time. Although he finished 8th, GunderKline was able to beat his own school record by 24 seconds.
“Because my goal for the race was to make the top six, I was a little disappointed when I crossed the finish line in 8th,” said GunderKline, “but when I found out that I had PR’ed by 25 seconds, I was comforted by the fact that I had really put my best race on the track.” His time of 14:07.58 was only 17 seconds off the All American pace.
Goshen’s final athlete, junior Matthew Webster, competed in the weight throw. Although it was Nationals, and although he was seeded 25th out of 25 competitors, Webster didn’t feel any more pressure than usual. “I was surprisingly less nervous at this meet than any other meet I’ve ever been to,” said Webster, “I felt confident and ready.”
This confidence showed as he took to the field. On his third attempt, Webster threw the 35-pound weight 56 ft. 3 ¾ in., a new school record. This toss propelled him from 20th in the standings to 13th. “ I came in as an underdog being ranked 25th out of 25, a.k.a. last, but I tried to stay positive and confident and I ended up placing 13th, setting a personal best, and a school record,” said Webster. Webster now has the school records in hammer, discus, weight throw and indoor shot put.
This event concluded the indoor track and field season, and now athletes will be focusing on outdoor. Goshen College opens its outdoor track and field season at the Dick Small Invitational in Defiance (Ohio) on March 19.