Christian Zylstra – Staff Writer
The indoor track and field season has finally begun, and the upcoming season seems to be a promising one for the Dordt College Defenders.
Through the first two meets (Dordt Open and Nebraska Wesleyan Invite), the Defenders have four athletes slated to compete in the NAIA Championships come March: Lauren Opp in the 5-kilometer, Erin Francis in the 55-meter high hurdles, Tim Bierma in the 1000-meter and Katie Bonnema in the 600-meter. Christy Heidema also qualified for nationals with the “B” standard in the triple jump and will now shoot for the “A” standard, which means automatic qualification.
“We’re off to a really good start with our overall team performance,” said Dordt head coach Craig Heynen. “Our upperclassmen have had a couple of good performances, and our four national qualifiers is about as good as we’ve ever done this early in the season.”
The first two events speak to the promise and potential of the team, even with many freshmen on this year’s squad.
“About one-third of our team this year are freshman,” Heynen said. “For them, it’s all about adjustments. Many of them have run indoor events in high school, but in college it’s an entire season. They just have to adjust, and I’m already seeing improvement in this talented group.”
But just how high is the potential for Dordt this season?
“For the women, we have been in the top-three in conference the past couple seasons, but we graduated a lot of seniors, too. We could potentially be back up there with this young and talented group, but it won’t be easy,” Heynen said. “For the men, we have some really great seniors and a good group of freshman. The past couple years we have finished in the middle to even lower part of the conference, but we have a lot of potential this season and look to continue building that for the future.”
Of course, goal-setting is crucial for any team seeking to maximize its potential. Dordt has goals in place not only to do well in conference and have as many people make it to nationals as possible, but to build the team aspects of the sport as well.
In a sport that is often seen as fairly individualistic, goals like that are commendable.
“We really want to be a good team,” Heynen said. “Those team aspects of unity, working together and getting better are important to us.”
So what events should one look out for when watching a meet? According to Coach Heynen, the relay teams have a lot of potential, and he could see many of them succeeding at conference and qualifying for nationals.
Students’ next chance to watch Dordt compete on campus is Feb. 15 in the Dordt Invite. Make sure you come on down and support your Defenders as they make their final push to qualify for conference and nationals.