Women’s track makes history at nationals

Luke Siegle – Staff Writer

Three members of the Women’s Track and Field team earned a spot at the NCAA Indoor Championships last Friday and Saturday. Junior Annika Poe competed in the shot put and finished in 8th place. Junior Birgen Nelson competed in the 60 M Hurdles and placed 7th and Senior Elizabeth Donnelly also finished in seventh place in the 800 M. With all three securing top eight finishes it meant they all earned All-American honors. That made Gustavus Track history as it was the first time that three teammates all earned All-American honors in the same NCAA Championship.
Annika Poe got the small group of Gusties rolling early as she placed eighth overall in the shot-put, giving the Gusties their first All-American. She advanced to the finals with a throw of 44–10.25. Although she wasn’t able to top that in her three throws in the finals, getting to that point was a testament to the work she put in all season long.
“Overall it was a really great indoor season. I PR’d every meet of the season besides Nationals which is really exciting and doing that was my highlight for the indoor season,” Poe said. Additionally she came into the meet seeds 13th out of the 20 competitors, so she had to overcome the lower seed to get into the top eight.
“My mindset going in was to do the best I could and since I was coming in on the lower end of the spectrum…I was just trying to do my best, trying to PR, and going in with that mindset helped with the nervousness and not putting too much pressure on yourself, so that definitely helped me throughout the weekend,” Poe said. It sure did help, as she overcame the lower seed and proved that she belonged in the same conversations as some of the best throwers in the country.
Birgen Nelson has begun to get used to competing in NCAA Championships as this was her third time, but she had never competed in the Indoor Nationals. She made the Indoor Championships her freshman year, but they were canceled at the last minute due to the Covid-19 outbreak. She then made Nationals once again last spring as she competed in the NCAA Outdoor Championships where she earned two All-America honors. So last Friday and Saturday was her first crack at dominating the indoor track.
After battling injuries that nearly kept her out of the MIAC conference event, Nelson ran the 60 M hurdles and finished with a time of 8.79 which was good for a seventh-place finish. Given the fact that she wasn’t at 100 percent, it was an excellent showing of grit and determination. “I went out there and executed what I could, and I’ve been dealing with injuries so honestly just very happy to get to compete when a few weeks ago I wasn’t even running,” Nelson said.
“I went out there and executed what I could… Honestly just very happy to get to compete.”

Elizabeth Donnelly finished off the weekend successfully as she became the third Gustie to capture the All-American honor. Running the 800 Meter, she finished with a time of 2:14.49 to place seventh in the finals. It marked the end of a season in which Donnelly completed many of her main goals. “I feel like I’ve had a lot of goals in the back of my head for a long time and this season I just started checking them off,” Donnelly said.
“I’ve had a lot of goals for a long time and this season I just started checking them off.”

One of her goals was to get to Nationals and she did that with flying colors as she not only made it, but finished as one of the eight best runners in the country at the Division III level. “A lot of things came together this season and it makes me really excited for outdoor to see how far I can take it,” Donnelly said when reflecting on the indoor season.
With that being said all three of the All-Americans are looking forward to finally getting outside and seeing if they can check off some of their lofty goals. “I do want our 4*400 relay to break the school record and go to Nationals and I think we have a really good shot at that,” Nelson said, when looking ahead. “I think it could be really good and I think it could be really fast. Maybe try and break some of the outdoor records too,” Donnelly said.
Poe echoed those statements, “I am really looking forward to outdoor…and I’m really excited to do other events because I also do discus and am going to try hammer this year too as well as shot.”
All in all, it should be an awesome spring and if it ends anything like the indoor season does, it will surely go down as one of the greatest women’s track seasons in Gustavus history.