A change in perception through unexpected win

A surreal second-straight national title shifts perception

More stories from Angel Vang

(Photo from blugolds.com)

(Photo from blugolds.com)

Track and field coach Chip Schneider knew he had a team that could win it all, but he knows a lot had to fall into place for it to happen once, so for everything right to happen two years in row, Schneider said  is unbelievable.

After the Blugolds won nationals last year, Schneider said he was proud but did not expect the men’s indoor track team to win their second straight NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field National Championship.

Winning last year’s indoor national title motivated a lot of the men on this year’s team who were there last year, he said.

“They know how it feels to win, and because we placed second last year for outdoor, they know how it feels to be second, too,” Schneider said. “It’s a big difference between the feeling you get when you win or placed second, so I think the motivation is always there, but a bit has to come from each athlete.”

With this motivation, he said they had individuals who made outstanding achievements that helped the team win the title. Seniors Josh Thorson, Nick Petersson and sophomore Darin Lau, all placed in the men’s 3000-meter run, collecting 19 points together. Senior Alex Mess took fourth place in the shot put, scoring 8 points alone.

In addition to winning the 3000-meter run, Thorson also won the 5000-meter run with a time of 14:16:46. However, Thorson didn’t expect to win nationals and was a bit surprised as well. It wasn’t until a week or two before the national meet that he realized they were even in contention to win.

“Getting into nationals we knew pretty much everything will need to go right so it was surreal coming down to the last two events at the meet,” Thorson said. “Finishing running and seeing the coaches’ reactions and realizing that we had won it, it was almost a little surprising.”

After winning the indoor national championship unexpectedly, Thorson said a shift in thinking occured that led them to believe they could win another national title.

Being the one to help guide the team to a national championship, Thorson said it has made him more confident and changed how he looks at himself as a runner.

“In high school, I always tried to immediately take over the race,” he said, “and make it pretty much hard from the start because I didn’t think I could kick it in the end really fast, so I think that’s the main thing that changed for me.”

Thorson also hopes that winning this title will motivate the freshmen and sophomores who weren’t competing at nationals. He said he wants this event to motivate and give them faith in the program.

“So much of what I’m trying to do as a runner is continue the program into the future as being really strong,” Thorson said, “and every little thing we can do to keep those younger guys motivated who are the ones out there grinding everyday without the attention.”

Although winning is the ultimate objective when playing sports or games, being able to experience higher level competition and improve from the experience is something coach Schneider values, he said.

Whether the students are going to nationals or just attending conferences and other meets, he said he wants to make sure they’re progressing in their events and seeing a level of success they weren’t seeing when they started college.

“Winning is nice,” Schneider said. “But all we want to see is that the kids improve, and not just the kids who are on the national meet, and that we continue to have a team where whatever you came in at the beginning of the year your abilities and talents aren’t just what drives you. That the hard work pays off in personal goals.”

Schneider said they try not to focus on specific points, rather they focus on entering the mindset that if each person does what they’re supposed to do going in, then they are going to be fine as a team.

“We don’t control what other teams will be doing there,” Schneider said. “So as long as we take care of what we’re doing, that’s about all we can hope for, and a lot of times that’s all it takes and this time was one of those times.”