Blugold track finishes season strong at NCAA Indoor Championships

    Eau Claire walks away from meet with personal records and All-American titles

    More stories from Nicole Bellford

    The women’s 400 meter relay (pictured) took 5th overall, earning All-American honors and a personal best time.

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    The women’s 400 meter relay (pictured) took 5th overall, earning All-American honors and a personal best time.

    The Blugold men’s and women’s teams concluded their season with a handful of standout performances at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Indoor Track and Field Championships this past weekend in Naperville, Illinois.

    Freshman marketing student and first-time nationals qualifier Hunter Henk said it was the experience of a lifetime.

    “The atmosphere was amazing,” Henk said. “At certain points in the race, you wouldn’t be able to hear yourself breathe because it would become so loud from all the cheering and excitement.”

    The Blugolds turned in a series of personal bests and All-American finishes the first day of the meet. Seniors Jessie Reineck and Jess Rupnow started off the competition on a high note with 9th and 13th place finishes in the 400-meter dash, with times of 56.74 and 57.61 seconds respectively. Reineck’s time was a personal record.

    Junior Darin Lau and senior Nick Petersson kept the momentum going as they took All-American honors in the 5,000-meter run, taking 4th and 6th place. Lau finished in 14:28.81 while Petersson followed in 14:31.32.

    The men’s 400-meter relay, consisting of freshman Aaron Zmolek, freshman KJ Munn, junior Brandon Christnovich and senior Jimmy Paske did not get the opportunity to advance to finals, as they placed 10th in the race with a time of 3:21.90.

    The Blugolds finished the first day with yet another All-American honor in the men’s distance medley relay (DMR).

    The DMR of freshman Kyler Lueck, Henk, senior Ryan Graham and senior Matt Cooper took 4th overall, finishing in 10:00.73. Although Graham got tangled in his baton exchange with Henk and started off his leg of the race with a dislocated left shoulder, the senior was able to pop the injury back into place at the 150-meter mark and cross the finish line in one of his best splits to date.

    Eau Claire head coach Chip Schneider said Graham’s persistence through the race became the talk of the weekend.

    “It was pretty incredible how he gutted it out with his shoulder like that,” Schneider said. “A lot of other teams were coming up to us and commending that.”

    Day two of the competition continued in victorious fashion for the Blugolds. Junior JoHannah Theisen got the team started with a 13th place finish in the shotput, throwing 13.13.

    Petersson and Lau once again double-teamed top finishes for the team as they raced the 3,000-meter run (5k). Petersson was national runner-up with a personal best time of 8:17.42, taking another All-American honor. Lau finished 9th in 8:24.91.

    The women’s 400-meter relay of Reineck, junior Ashleigh Buergi, sophomore Claire Fisher, and Rupnow concluded the Blugolds’ success with a 5th place finish, earning All-American honors and achieving a personal best time of 3:51.87. At the end of the meet, the men took 6th overall with 21 points, while the women tied for 50th with four points.

    Looking forward, Coach Schneider said he is excited for the upcoming outdoor season.

    “As a team, we will be better outside,” Schneider said. “We have some kids that will do some things we didn’t get to see indoors.”
    Blugold track will be back in action in the coming weeks as they prepare for the first outdoor competition on April 8 in the Ashton May Invite, hosted by UW-La Crosse.