Kieran Ripken – Staff Writer
The Gustavus Women’s Track & Field team sent a few of its members to the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa this past week to compete against some of the country’s best track athletes. With teams across Divisions I, II, and III present, the Gustie women rose to the occasion against stellar competition from notable Big Ten teams like the University of Minnesota and the University of Iowa. The team left the meet with a new school record and a handful of times ranking near the top of NCAA Division III on the season.
While the Gusties had a squad of women competing in Des Moines, the team was also in Saint Paul competing at Macalester’s Janis Rider/Doug Bolstorff Invitational on Thursday and Saturday. The Gusties totaled 68 points for fifth place in a field of eighteen teams.
“The Drake Relays is not something that most people get to go to. To be in the building with all these great athletes is something that you won’t really ever get to experience again, yet alone be able to run with them,” Junior Danielle Miller said.
On Friday, the women’s 4×100 relay team of Miller, Senior Birgen Nelson, Sophomore Megan Geraets, and Sophomore Kate Carlson won their heat and got third overall in the opening round with a time of 47.69. Their time ranks third in the MIAC this season. Last week, the quartet broke the school record with a time of 47.50 at the Gustie Twilight meet.
Later in the day, Nelson competed in the 100-meter hurdles and finished with a time of 13.81, the best among Division III athletes. Nelson, a 6x All-American and the reigning national champion in this event, recorded the second-fastest time in Division III this season and improved on her season-best time of 13.88. Last year, Nelson set the Division III national record with a time of 13.44.
The women’s 4×200 relay team had a magical performance to culminate a night filled with stellar competition. The quartet of Junior Ally Rakow, Carlson, Geraets, and Nelson set a new school record with a time of 1:40.17. The time is the best in Division III this season and ranks third all-time in Division III history.
“It was a super special moment for us. We ran that relay indoors and did well, so it was fun to do even better outside,” Carlson said.
Breaking a school record is quite the achievement, but the 4×200 relay time obliterated the previous record by an absurd five seconds, which is unheard of for a shorter event. The quartet also set the indoor school record in the same event this year.
“It was such a fun experience… It’s just exciting to be able to be a part of a team like that and to be able to perform so well at a meet with so many amazing athletes,” Rakow said.
On Saturday, the team of Miller, Nelson, Sophomore Makenna Huetten, and First-year Daneyah Hughes took on the shuttle hurdle relay and crossed the finish line with a time of 1:01.48, the best amongst Division III teams and good for third overall.
To wrap up the meet, the women’s 4×100 quartet of Miller, Nelson, Geraets, and Carlson improved on their time from the previous day, finishing fifth overall with a time of 47.61.
“Although we did not break the school record… it was still an amazing experience and we know what we can improve on for next time,” Miller said.
In Saint Paul, Junior Evelyn Villalobos won the 5000-meter in a field of 32 competitors with a time of 18:07.79 and Sophomore Sydney Hagen took third with a time of 19:18.70. First-year Lauren Rocheford secured the Gustie women’s second event victory in the 400-meter hurdles with a winning time of 1:08.58. All-American Senior Annika Poe placed second in the shot put, first among Division III participants, with a throw of 43-8. Poe also placed sixth in the discus with a distance of 117-8. Sophomore Lindsay Bangs was the runner-up in the high jump with a mark of 5-1 and Sophomore Lili Guy took fourth in the long jump with a distance of 16-8.
As the season winds down, the Gusties have big expectations for the remainder of their time with less than a month of competition left on the schedule.
“I’m expecting us to all continue to have fun and to trust our training [and believe] that we’ve put in the effort and the time it takes to perform our best for conference. Hopefully, a couple of us [can] go to Nationals,” Rakow said.
The Gustie women will compete at the Maverick Open in Mankato on Saturday, May 6. The following week is the Women’s MIAC Outdoor Championships at Bethel University, which will start Friday, May 12, and run through Saturday, May 13. The NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships will begin Thursday, May 25, and go through Saturday, May 27 in Rochester, New York.