TRK: Warriors’ 800 relay earns All-American honors

MARION, Ind. — The second day of the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships saw Westmont Track and Field rebound from a disappointed opening day. The Warrior performances were highlighted by the men’s 4 x 800 relay race in which senior Isaac Thompkins, junior David Donner, junior Evan Bradford and freshman Nathan Evans earned All-American honors with a seventh place finish. The Warriors posted a time of 7:42.79, more than three and one-half seconds faster than yesterday’s qualifying time.

“Each of them ran faster than they did the day before,” noted Westmont head coach Russell Smelley. “They all ran as well as they could today. With Matt Shiney not being able to run, they had to step up and they did. It was very gratifying for them to get the reward they have often wanted.”

“It feels like a dream come true,” said Thompkins. “For a long time, I thought I wouldn’t get (All-American), because I had three hamstring injuries throughout the season. It has been a blessing to be out here with these guides. I could not have comeback without my team. There were the low points, but they were always encouraging me and pushing me and being there for me.”

Sophomore Elysia Hodges turned in the second fastest time in Westmont history to win the first heat of the women’s 400 meter trials. Hodges, who posted a time of 54.97, will compete in Saturday’s finals at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

“Elysia was ready to go, as she always is, and looked very strong,” assessed Smelley. “She should be in contention tomorrow for the front of the race.”

Also qualifying for tomorrow’s final was the women’s 4 x 400 relay team consisting of freshman Karlie Storkson, senior Amanda Chevalier, senior Theresa Nealon and Hodges. The Warriors won the first heat with a school record time of 3:48.27. The final is schedule for 6:15 EDT.

“The women’s 4 x 400 relay team ran very well,” said Smelley who noted that this is the first women’s 4 x 400 team to compete at nationals. “Karlie was coming back from an injury but got a solid lead-off (leg). Mandy was sick all morning and not feeling well, but she ran equal to her best performance in the 400. Theresa and Elysia made up the ground they needed.”

Westmont’s men’s 4 x 400 relay team also established a new school record in the trials. Bryan Avendano, Christian Hatchett, Tyler Moore and Quincy Braxton broke a 41-year old record by posting a time of 3:14.37. Unfortunately, the Warriors finished sixth in their heat and tenth overall and were edged out of the finals by 0.01 second.

“It is also the first time that the men have run the 4 x 400 at nationals in my era and maybe ever,” said Smelley. “Christian hasn’t raced since March 26 due to a strained abdominal muscle and he ran a huge personal record at 47.1. He was followed by a freshman in Tyler who is a sprinter but was pressed into service and ran a 47.9. Quincy did what he could with his bad knee and ran a 48.7. It’s a bitter-sweet success.”

Nealon also just missed qualifying for the finals of the women’s 800 meter. Though her time of 2:13.61 was the fourth best time in Westmont history, her fifth-place finish in the third heat was 0.005 second to slow to allow her to advance.

Freshman Kristan Holding finished thirteenth in the women’s heptathlon after a solid showing on the second day of competition. Her mark of 4,219 points beat her personal best by two points and was the fourth best performance in the Westmont record books.

“Kristan had a good score without being at her best all the way around,” noted Smelley. “In the heptathlon you have to be a consistent performer, which she was. As a freshman, she can see what see needs to do to improve.”

Holding started the day by reaching 5.18 meters (17-0) in the long jump to finish ninth. In the javelin, Holding placed eleventh with a throw of 29.74 meters (97-7). She placed eighth in the 800 meters with a time of 3:35.33.

Sophomore Kyle Kemper got his first taste of nationals and finished sixteenth in the decathlon with 5,626 points.

“The great part of Kyle’s story is that 20 months ago he was trying out for baseball and had never done track and field,” said Smelley. “Now he is a national qualifier in his own right.”

Kemper started the second day of competition by recording a time of 17.56 in the 110 meter hurdles. In the discus, Kemper finished ninth with a throw of 30.99 meters (101-8) and placed fifteenth in the pole vault while clearing a personal record 3.60 meters (11-9.75).

Kemper’s best performance came in the javelin in which he produced a throw of 49.89 meters (163-8) for a sixth place finish. In the final event, Kemper finished tenth in the 1500 meters with a time of 4:53.58.

Saturday morning, senior Danica Rosendale and sophomore Daniel Erickson will compete in the marathon beginning at six o’clock EDT. Also competing for the first time tomorrow will be Shane Rowan in the men’s triple jump. Rowan’s qualifying mark of 14.85 meters (48-8.75) is the fifth best in the field of 19 competitors.