Four more Warriors earn All-American results

MARION, Ind. — On the final day of competition at the NAIA Outdoor National Track and Field Championships, Westmont added four more All-American titles to bring its total to seven over the three-day event. Head coach Russell Smelley was pleased with the performances of his 15 student athletes.

“We haven’t had this many people compete in finals in so many different events since the 1970s,” said Smelley to the team and a post-meat meal. “The last two years we have done something we have not done in a long time – we have brought a team, not just individuals, to compete at nationals.”

Smelley thanked his seniors for helping to bring about that milestone in the program’s development.

Over the three days of the championship, Westmont had athletes compete in the finals of 12 events and score in seven of them.

“They are committed athletes, they are getting good training and they expect to do well,” said Smelley of his team. “They didn’t come here just to get here, they came here to compete.”

The competition started early on Saturday morning with Caitlyn Corrao competing in the marathon. She finished sixteenth with a time of 3:17.36.

“I finished in the top half,” said an excited Corrao. “I wanted to run a little faster, but as I went through the race, I was happy with just finishing. I think it was good for never running a marathon before. I know I slowed down in the middle, but somehow – I don’t know how – the last 5K I managed to pick it up.”

“Caitlyn had a steady, courageous race,” said Smelley, “She stayed focus and did a good job for herself.”

Westmont’s first All-American title on Saturday came in the women’s 400 meter hurdles with Elysia Hodges recording a time of 61.04 to claim sixth place.

“Elysia, handled herself well as a freshman,” said Smelley. “After a disappointing run last night in the semifinals, she came back and placed well.”

“My first three hurdles, I started getting nervous because all the other girls were going out really hard,” said Elysia. “Then around the 200 (meter mark), I saw peripherally that I was ahead of some of the outside lanes. So at the 200 I just gave it everything and I felt really good in the last 200.”

While Hodges was running the 400 meter hurdles, fellow freshman Shane Rowan was competing in the men’s triple jump. Rowan jumped a personal best 14.98 meters (49-1.75) in his first attempt to take sixth place and earn a place among Westmont’s All-Americans.

“Lately this season, I have been scratching most of my jumps, so I was just trying to get on the board with my first jump to get in the finals,” said Rowan. “It felt really timid. I was really surprised that I PRed.”

While waiting to receive his All-American plaque, Rowan received some encouragement from Ethan Dejongh of Fresno Pacific who won the national championship.

“I just heard that I beat Ethan’s freshman-year mark and he is jumping 17 meters now,” said Rowan. “So, hopefully I can get 16 meters, near 17. This next year I want to get to 50 feet and then go from there.”

Senior Kate Stuart earned the Warrior’s third All-American honor of the day, taking fourth place in the women’s 1500 meters in a time of 4:33.33.

“It was tough, it was hot out,” said Stuart of the weather that reached the high 90s. “But I hung in there as best I could. I didn’t want to have to lead, but it went out slow. So, I ended up leading most of the first three laps. Then I ran a 69 (second) last lap which is pretty fast, and that was just about all that I had left. I ended up getting past at the end. I definitely had to fight for it.”

“I thought Kate handled herself very well,” said Smelley. “She has had to lead almost the whole year. She went into nationals and made the race happen. She was beaten, but she did not beat herself.”

“I don’t really want to be done yet,” said Stuart when asked how she felt about her collegiate career coming to an end. “I think I am going to run the State Street mile next weekend.”

Matt Shiney literally dove over the finish line to earn an All-American title; edging out his competitor to take eighth place in the men’s 800 meters in a time of 1:53.14.

“This is my first (All-American title),” said Shiney. “I have been one spot away once and then missed it by 0.6 another time. So it was very sweet to finally get that title of All-American.

“The first lap was nothing unusual,” recounted Shiney. “I felt good and was in good position. Then 500 meters into the race, I felt like I was going to do well. I started moving, but then the group just kind of left me. With 200 (meters) to go, I got elbowed and both seventh and eighth (place) left me.

“I started to think in my head, ‘Oh, not again. One spot away again’. But I saw the eighth place guy and he was within striking distance. I thought. ‘I can do this. I can get him’.

“I kept digging and digging until the last few steps and I knew I had to dive. So, I dove across (the finish line) and thankfully I got him by .05. The dive was intentional. I was thinking about it last night before I went to bed. I was thinking I would have to dive to beat someone. It is crazy that it actually happened and I actually got him.”

“It was fun to watch Matt Shiney come back and dive to get that point,” said Smelley. “He put his head down and regained the ground and got himself an All-American plaque.”

Also competing today, despite an injury, was senior Scott MacDonald in the men’s shot put.

“It is hard to be disappointed when you come out and you are tearing some key tendons in your arm,” said MacDonald. “All I could do is go out there and just throw my best. My legs felt good, but I was feeling it in the arm and I will feel it bad later tonight.

“But that is the nature of competition. I didn’t want to miss my last throws and always wonder what I could have done. It was the second best throw of this season and the fourth best throw of my college career.”

MacDonald put the shot for 15.29 meters (50-2) and placed eighteenth in the event.

“This has been an amazing trip,” said MacDonald. “There have been a lot of relaxed feelings on the team and good chemistry. I think that we are seeing the chemistry and the bonding come to fruition. We have seen a lot of team members move up from their seed spots and make finals who weren’t necessarily suppose to make finals. I could have been among them had the arm not done what it did, but I am so happy for the other people. Those are the memories I am going to hang on to.”

Theresa Nealon competed in the finals of the women’s 800 meters where she placed ninth with a time of 2:17.15. Danica Rosendale finished fifteenth in the finals of the 5,000 meter race, posting a time of 20:17.32. Matt Kemp had a tenth place finish in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, completing the course in 9:33.00.

The women’s team finished in twenty-third place with 14 points. Oklahoma Baptist won the event with 101.5 points.

Westmont was the third finisher among GSAC teams. Azusa Pacific’s women took third with 62 points while Fresno Pacific finished one spot ahead of Westmont in twenty-second place with one more point (15). Biola was thirty-seventh with six points and Vanguard took forty-second with five points.

The Westmont men finished in twenty-ninth place with eight points. Shorter (Ga.) was the men’s winner after accumulating 93 points. Azusa Pacific placed second with 69 points and Fresno Pacific took ninth with 29 points. Point Loma Nazarene claimed twenty-first place with 13 points and Biola finished sixty-second with a point and one-half.