Sam Ekstrom – Staff Writer
Tim Bierma set a goal after his freshman year of track: he was going to qualify for nationals during his college career.
On Jan. 24, that goal was attained in the 1,000 meter run at the Nebraska Wesleyan Invite.
“I was kind of in shock for a while,” said Bierma about his first-ever individual qualification.
The senior ran a 2 minute, 31.06 second race to win the event, less than three-tenths of a second within the requisite time of 2:31.35.
Bierma, a Sioux Center native, knew it was going to be close when he began his final 200-meter lap close to 2:01.
“At that point I was like, ‘I’ve got to go if I want to try and qualify,’ said Bierma. “People said I had a visible surge with 200 to go.”
With the time clock sitting directly at the finish line, Bierma pushed through the pain for the final 50 meters to earn his spot at the national indoor meet.
“Going into that home stretch, you get that burning feeling of going all out – you can’t go any faster – and I could see the clock kind of ticking in slow motion as I went down the home stretch,” Bierma said.
Bierma’s qualification earns him a seat on the bus to Geneva, Ohio for the March 6-8 event. His accomplishment comes as no surprise to his coaches Craig Heynen and Greg Van Dyke.
“Tim has a great work ethic and attitude,” said Heynen, who believed Bierma’s qualifying run was the best race of his career. “He comes to practice every day ready to work and gets after the workouts.”
Van Dyke, who also serves as Bierma’s cross-country coach, admires his humility as a teammate.
“Tim is a selfless individual, and he gets just as excited about a teammate’s great performance as he does about his own,” said Van Dyke. “Tim’s enthusiasm is going to be missed next year.”
While the day-to-day grind of training can be taxing, it has paid off for Bierma, 22, who feels like he is in the best shape of his career.
“Each season kind of keeps on building on that base, so this year I was able to handle a lot higher intensity, higher volume training, and it is definitely paying dividends,” Bierma said.
Heynen sees the same improvement in Bierma’s practice sessions.
“It is sort of a strange phenomenon, but the really good middle-distance athletes like [Bierma] really start to like the intense workouts, and I can tell Tim does, too,” Heynen said.
Remarkably, Bierma followed up his 1,000-meter victory with another first-place finish at the Dennis Young Invite in Storm Lake, Iowa. Bierma won the 1,600-meter run in a time of 4:19.95, just two-tenths of a second shy of a school record.
While Bierma still hopes to help his squad qualify in the 4 x 800 relay, the 1,000 and 1,600-meter qualifications are the climax of an arduous – yet rewarding – four-year process.
“I’ve seen the value of persistence and the importance of putting in that offseason work,” Bierma said.
Once Bierma runs his final collegiate race in May, one might expect him to take a hiatus from running. Maybe eat junk food for a while and take some time to be lazy.
Not the case.
“Hopefully, I’ll keep on running,” said Bierma. “I’d like to run a marathon next fall.”