Isabel Pheifer—Staff Writer
The Dordt University Men’s and Women’s Track and Field team is in the midst of their indoor season. The Defenders experienced success at the two most recent meets, the Dordt Open and the SDSU D2 Invite.
Dordt hosted the former on Jan. 15, which featured four teams from the GPAC: Morningside, Northwestern, Dakota Wesleyan, and Dordt. On the women’s side, six members of the Defenders grabbed ahold of first place in their respective events: freshman Sadie Clark in the pole vault, junior Mikayla Balt in the long jump, junior Paige Decker in the triple jump, and senior Mika Kooistra in the 600m. Kooistra ran 1:39.68, edging out her teammate, freshman Emilee Heynen, for the victory. Continuing in the first place finishers, junior Bethany Ten Haken crossed the finish line in the 1000m with a time of 3:13.01 and junior Jessica Kampman took home the title in the 3000m with a time of 10:33. Kampman finished over 30 seconds ahead of the second place finisher.
“After a season of having no spectators due to COVID, it felt really good to be back on our home track with people there cheering for us,” Ten Haken said.
For the men, two runners met the “A standard” and qualified for nationals in March: junior Joe Anderson and senior Davis Tebben. The two battled in the mile, with Anderson edging out Tebben at the finish line.
In addition, seven other Defender men won events. Grant Brouwer leapt to a win in the high jump, soaring over the bar at 1.96m. Then, freshman Logan Franken won the 55m and placed second in the 200m. The Defenders swept the middle-distance races, with sophomore Cole Zevenbergen winning the 400m in 50.59, Peyton Miller crossing the line in a time of 1:25.97 in the 600m, and sophomore Payton Mauldin winning the 800m with a time of 1:56. And finally, senior Jebediah Merkle won the 1000m and sophomore Ethan Summerhays won the 3000m.
“That is just a testament to how hard the team has worked so hard this season,” said Chris Ellens, a graduate assistant coach. “As you go throughout the season, you want to see your team progressively get faster, and I think we are starting to see that already.”
The next week, the men’s and women’s teams traveled to SDSU for the SDSU D2 Invite. On the men’s side, four met the ‘A standard.” Tebben qualified for nationals in the 5K with a second-place time of 14:40.8 in the 5K. Tebben’s time currently ranks as fastest in the GPAC and the sixth fastest in the NAIA.
Then, Zevenbergen qualified for the nationals in the 600m. Zevenbergen had previously met the automatic qualifier mark, and did so again this year, this time winning the event with a time of 1:20.5, the fourth best in the NAIA.
Two more individuals earned themselves a spot on the national team, with Mauldin qualifying in the 400m and Merkle in the 800m. With his successful run in the 400m, Mauldin qualified in his third event for the national meet. Merkle won his race in a time of 1:53.38, fourth fastest in the NAIA. With these impressive qualifying runs and strong showings from others on the team, the Dordt men were able to secure a fourth place finish out of 20 teams competing.
“It was awesome to see how well we can compete against some big schools and how our times are continuing to improve,” Ellens said.
The women also had a strong showing in Brookings, as two individuals and one relay qualified for the national meet. Kampman qualified in her second event of the indoor season with a fourth place finish in the 5K and a time of 17:57. Ten Haken won the 800m in 2:17.4, meeting the provisional standard.
“It was a fun race. The competition was really good,” Ten Haken said.
The Defenders were able to finish the meet with a win in the 4x400m relay. The team, made up of seniors Annmarie Stuit, Emma Bakker, and Mika Kooistra, along with freshman Emilee Heynen, finished with a time of 3:55.82.
These impressive performances helped the women take home fifth place out of 19 teams.
“It is fun to be able to add to the number of people that have qualified for the national meet,” said Ten Haken. “It looks like we will be taking a large team to nationals, which will be really exciting.”
The Defenders will travel to Yankton, South Dakota to compete in the Mount Marty Invite on Jan. 29.