The indoor track and field team sent 10 Panther athletes to the NCAA Championship meet on March 14 and 15 at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, where over the course of the two-day event the squad competed in three individual events and two relays.
The men’s 4×400 meter relay team consisting of Fritz Parker ’15, Bryan Holtzman ’14, Alex Nichols ’17 and Peter Hetzler ’14 took to the track in the first heat of a three section final after qualifying for the 12th spot in the event. From the gun, the Panthers were gapped by their opponents and had to work to make up ground over the course of the race, finally finishing in fourth in their section and 12th in the overall event with a time of 3:19.88.
Holtzman ran the second leg for the Panthers.
“I wasn’t able to hunt down other competitors like I had in weeks past because of the quality of competition,” Holtzman said. “That’s part of being at NCAAs. If we had been with the rest of our heat, we definitely would have run faster.”
“It takes a lot just to get into the NCAA meet, and I was honored to be a part of it and to go with such a great group of teammates,” Parker said.
Holtzman believes that the 4×400 team has more to give.
“I think we have more in us and can achieve higher,” he said. “It will only make us more hungry for the spring season.”
On the women’s side, the distance medley relay team of Alison Maxwell ’15, Jackie Kearney ’16, Alex Morris ’16 and Erzsie Nagy ’17 entered their race as the sixth seed. Maxwell got the team off to a good start when she ran a smooth opening 1200-meter leg, handing the baton off at the back of the lead pack. Kearney kept the squad in the race as the group began to string out during the 400-meter leg, handing off to Morris for the 800-meter portion of the relay where she kept the team in contention for an All-American finish. Nagy received the baton in 10th place at the beginning of her 1600-meter anchor leg, pulling the team up to a seventh place finish when she crossed the line with the clock reading 11:44.95.
“The Williams anchor, Kaleigh Kenny, was out in front of me chasing down the lead pack of seven runners,” Nagy said. “I wanted to catch up to Kaleigh and let her pull me through and up to the lead group. It worked out well, since a few runners fell off the pack so I moved up into seventh.”
The team’s finish marked the fifth year in a row that Middlebury has earned All-American honors in the women’s DMR event.
“Our team was so completely thrilled,” Nagy said. “We finished All-American, which was what we all were hoping for. Even though we were seeded sixth and finished seventh, we dropped three seconds from our best time.”
Of the three Panther individuals to compete in the meet, Laura Strom ’14.5 was the only field athlete, entering the high jump with the top mark in the country. On the day of competition, Strom finished with a ‘No Height’ when she was unable to clear the bar in the first round of jumps.
On the track, Morris also took to the line to compete in the 400, where she took 17th in the opening heats in a time of 58.36 and did not qualify for the finals in the event.
Wilder Schaaf ’14.5 was the lone male individual to compete for the Panther squad with his performance in the mile. Schaaf managed to qualify out of the preliminary heats on Friday, making it into the finals based on time. He finished in ninth place overall on Saturday, running a time of 4:10.99 and narrowly missing All-American status by .11 seconds in a race where all but one member of the field crossed the finish line as a tight pack.
With the final chapter of indoor season closed, the team as a whole turns to outdoor action for the spring, with competition beginning over spring break at Point Loma Nazarene in southern California.