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Indoor Track Finishes NCAA’s with Record-Breaking Number of All-American Athletes

By Robert Erickson

The 17 Middlebury athletes who travelled to Iowa last weekend (March 11-12) for the NCAA Division III Indoor Track Championships did more than hold their own against a highly competitive field.

The Panthers entered in six different events — including both the men and women in the 4×400 and distance medley relays, Adrian Walsh ’16 in the 5,000 meter and Alex Morris ’16 in the 400 meter — and secured All-American honors with top-eight finishes in all but one of these races.

Walsh, who crossed the line seventh in the 5k with a time of 17:10.78, described an atmosphere that likely intimidated even the most experienced runners.

“Overall, Nationals can be pretty overwhelming,” Walsh said. “Spectators get rowdy, and the whole corralling process before races can be nerve-racking. We were able to fly out on Wednesday afternoon and preview the track on Thursday, which tends to calm everyone’s nerves. I tried to stay as calm as possible throughout the whole travel process, and especially on race day, since I didn’t race until 5:50 Central Time.”

In fact, Walsh has been through the ordeal multiple times before; she drew upon her experience with a number of finishes just below the All-American cutoff to push herself past the threshold this time around.

“This was my third time to Indoor Nationals,” she explained. “I qualified individually while I was at Hamilton, and then the past two years I’ve qualified with Middlebury. Last year I missed All-American by one place after the laps were miscounted for the women’s 5K, and the year prior I had also missed All-American by a small margin. In total I’ve earned four ninth-place finishes between Indoor and Outdoor Nationals, which has been difficult to say the least.”

But in the end, Walsh cited her teammates as providing her with the greatest motivation throughout her training. She mentioned Alison Maxwell ’15, who won the National Championship in the indoor mile last year, as being particularly influential.

“Watching Alison finish out her senior track seasons with three All-American finishes and a national title was so incredible,” Walsh shared. “She has been such an inspiration to me since — and many others I’m sure. I knew what I wanted and needed to do going into this past race, and did my best to execute.”

Helping to garner enough points to finish 24th out of 77 teams, the rest of the women’s contingent finished eight or better in their respective races. In addition to Walsh’s race on Friday, March 11 the distance medley relay team of Nicole Schachman ’16, Kate McCluskey ’18, Lauren Bougioukas ’16 and Abigail Nadler ’19 barely missed the podium, finishing in fourth with a time of 11:50.96.

Finals on Saturday, March 12 saw Morris finish eighth in the 400-meter dash with a time of 58.05. Morris served double duty, as she anchored the 4×400 relay team of Jackie Kearney ’16, Lucy Lang ’19 and Paige Fernandez ’17 to again cross the line in eighth with a time of 3:58.00.

The men’s efforts were paced by the distance medley relay team of Kevin Serrao ’18, Tyler Farrell ’18, Lucas Carpinello ’16 and Sam Cartwright ’16, who barely edged the squad past NESCAC rival Conn. College for eighth place. In a stunning finish, Cartwright found the extra gear needed to overtake the Camel anchor just before the line, diving across to secure a spot on the All-American team by one one-hundredth of a second for a time of 10:07.24.

But fate wasn’t so kind to the men’s 4×400 team of Jimmy Martinez ’19, James Mulliken ’18, Brandon Cushman ’16 and Alex Nichols ’17, who missed qualifying for Saturday’s final race by one one-thousandth of a second behind a squad from Wheaton.

The fact that this race was the quartet’s fastest of the season by almost three full seconds made the result even harder to swallow. But with three quarters of the 4×400 returning next season, as well as a good number of the athletes who posted impressive finishes in other events throughout the season, the Panthers will be poised to build on their indoor success next winter.

With the spring outdoor season right around the corner, Walsh took a moment to reflect about where she and the rest of the seniors stand at the last juncture of their careers.

“This season has been phenomenal,” she reflected. “It’s been so exciting to train and race in the new facility this year, and I really think every athlete has benefitted from training on such a fresh, fast track. The team has so much to look forward to, and I think everyone will continue to excel from here on out. I’m so excited to see what will be accomplished in the years to come. The team is undoubtedly ready to hit the ground running with the outdoor season.”

The team will take this weekend off to train before traveling to California over spring break to compete in meets at Point Loma Nazarene University and UC San Diego.

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