Isabel Pheifer—Staff Writer
Dordt University hosted the GPAC Track Championships on February 19 and 20. The Defenders had incredible performances on both the men’s and women’s teams, as both finished within the top three in the team standings and the former made school history. This was not just another meet, as only the top 18 declared competitors in the conference for each event were pitted against each other. With this and a conference championship in mind, the tensions were high and the stakes were raised.
The Dordt women grabbed third place in the team standings. Junior sprinter Emma Bakker was part of the great success of the women’s team, taking second in the 200 meters, second in the 400 meters, and seventh in the 55 meters. Bakker was also a part of the 4×400 meter relay team that captured first place.
Along with success in the sprint events was a powerful performance by the women’s distance runners. In the 3000 meters, junior Eden Winslow took first place, sophomore Taylor Anema took second, and freshman Anika Homan took fourth.
“During the race, I felt really strong. I think I was very well prepared for this meet both physically and mentally. I went into it hoping I would win, and am glad I was able to do so,” said Winslow. For the 5000 meters, four women placed within the top eight. Anema, junior Mary Kate Postma, freshman Margaret Myskowski, and junior Brenna Tolkamp placed 1st, 4th, 6th, and 7th, respectively.
The success of the Defenders continued with the men’s scores placing them in first. Freshman Payton Mauldin ran himself to first place in the 600 meters, second place in the 800 meters, and was a part of the winning 4×400 meter relay team. Junior Davis Tebben was able to garner two long distance places, one being first place in the 5000 meters and the other being third place in the 3000 meters. On the field side, sophomore Grant Brouwer soared to second place in high jump, and junior Luke Bousema grabbed fifth place in pole vault. These performances helped the Dordt men to clinch the conference championship for the first time in school history.
Senior Jacob Vander Plaats was also an integral part of securing the championship for the men, as he performed exceptionally well. He snagged first place in the mile, third in the 1,000 and second in the 3,000. Vander Plaats said he was most proud of his mile race,
“It was a season best for me, and it was the race I won. I also managed to negative split in that race, running a 2:13 in the first half and 2:05 in the second half.”
Grabbing three top-three places earned Vander Plaats 24 points for his team. This impressive feat earned him the title of Outstanding Male Athlete.
“It felt pretty good to win the outstanding athlete honor.” He said, “I was a bit surprised, since I scored fewer points than I did last year at the conference meet and my times were slightly slower.”
Despite his surprise, it represents how the Dordt Defender track and field team is both dedicated and humble.
“It’s sweet that I was able to be on the first Dordt team to win a conference track meet.” Vander Plaats said, “I am hopeful we can continue our success at the national meet and as we move towards the outdoor season.”
While safety precautions didn’t allow spectators, the teams acted as their own support system. This ended up being really uplifting to witness, as each team showed their team spirit and sportsmanship by cheering participants on during the various events. The excitement of the day kept on building all the way until the very last second of the last race in anticipation of the championship trophies being awarded to the deserving teams.
The Defenders Track and Field team will send qualified athletes to the National Championships at Mount Marty University on March 3-6.