4×800 team wins NAIA national title

Casey Splane, The Circuit

Inside Ralph Nolan Gymnasium hang two national championship banners, both men’s basketball banners. Now there are three.
The Benedictine College women’s 4×800 relay team won the NAIA Indoor Track National Championship in the 4×800, the first national championship for the program.

The 4x800 (L to R)
The 4×800 (L to R) junior Katherine Dillard, senior Hannah Wondra, senior Hannah Pinkerton and junior Lauren Benzing pose in front of their winning time at the 2016 NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championship. Photo provided by the Benedictine Track team.

“You can’t win on accident,” said head coach Henry Brun. “You can’t go out there and just hope to win.”
There was no hoping for the quartet of seniors, Hannah Pinkerton and Hannah Wondra and juniors Katherine Dillard and Lauren Benzing, as they finished a full two seconds ahead of University of St. Francis.
They blazed a time of 9:09.37 – a program record – to claim the title.
“All the coaches were in different corners cheering them on,” Brun said. “It was really cool just to watch it happen.”
The Lady Ravens had the lead in the race early, but fell slightly behind coming into the final leg of the race. Knowing they weren’t far off the lead, the squad turned to their junior anchor Dillard to help bring home the national championship for the team.
“I do run well from right behind someone and so the gap closed and I knew I was going to have the baton right behind someone,” Dillard said.
Dillard cut the distance and then some to seal the win.
“It’s probably the first time my teammates have seen me smile when I came across the line,” Dillard said. “We knew we were the team to beat and we did what we came to do.”
The Ravens entered the national meet with the top time in the nation, and finished in third in the preliminaries.
“You could tell for some of them they were nervous,” Brun said. “I said that this is the fourth time you guys have been here and you deserve to win it once.”
The men’s and women’s teams have both quickly transitioned to the outdoor season, where the women will look for a conference sweep after winning the cross country title and indoor title.