Women’s Indoor Track & Field claims first-ever conference title

Randy Speer, The Circuit

After a weekend of running, Benedictine’s women’s indoor track team crossed the easiest distance of the weekend – the few feet from where they stood to the podium where they accepted the Heart of America Conference title.

The Women’s squad tallied 133.5 points to win its first-ever Indoor Track and Field Conference title.

Headed into the final three events of the meet, the women’s squad sat in sixth place.

Four athletes placed in the mile run with junior Katherine Dillard taking first with a time of 5:08.68. Junior Lauren Benzing came in second finishing seven seconds after Dillard. Three more Lady Ravens also placed with juniors Lucy Leighton and Elise Buchman taking fourth and fifth. Freshman Monica Davied rounded out the scorers in eighth place.

The 28-point swing pushed Benedictine into first with a three-point cushion.

The 4×800 team of seniors Hannah Pinkerton and Hannah Wondra along with Benzing and Dillard set a school record with a time of 9:19.68 to add to Benedictine’s lead. Their time is currently the fastest posted in the NAIA this season making the foursome the number one seed heading into the NAIA National Indoor Championship.

The distance medley squad of Pinkerton, Wondra, Leighton and junior Sydney Moser sealed the title with a first place finish of 12:54.00.

“At the end of the day we knew it came down to those last relays and they were exhausted, but they pushed through,” said Benedictine head coach Henry Brun.

Besides winning the head coach of the year award, this meet meant much more to Brun.

“Out of my entire career as an athlete and coach, I’ve never won a championship,” he said. “That was the coolest part about it.”

MidAmerica Nazarene finished in second with a total of 128 points.

“In general, we’re elated and just in awe,” Wondra said on the team earning the conference title. “We knew going in, it was going to take all of us coming together.”

Wondra, who took part in both the distance Medley and 4×800 meter relays, and earned first place in the 600m and 800m, was named Heart of America Female Athlete of the Meet for her efforts.

The 4×400 relay team, made up of senior Clare Bingaman, and juniors Sarah Sluder, Cassie Dycus and Danica Shimkus, also set a new school record with a time of 4.08.55.

Junior Merdith Pickert also qualified for the national qualifier and earned third place in the 3000 meter race walk.

Dillard was named the NAIA Indoor Female Track Athlete for the South Central region on Thursday Feb. 25 for her efforts in the conference meet.

The men’s indoor track and field team earned a fifth place finish in the conference meet with 71 points.
Baker took home the conference crown with 147 points.

“Conference is all about people stepping up,” said senior Phil Vutich. “People definitely did, and we were able to get some points we weren’t expecting to and that will give us momentum to carry into the outdoor season.”
Vutich was part of the 4×400 relay team that set a new school record on the men’s side. Seniors Will Wallace and John Caldwell, as well as freshman Jerel Rawls were also part of the record-breaking relay team. They finished in third with a time of 3:26.61.

Wallace earned first place in the 600m with a time of 1.22.75. He had already qualified for the national tournament prior to the conference meet.

Senior Luke Friess finished second in the mile run in 4.27.73.

The Indoor National Championship will be held March 3-5 in Johnson City, Tennessee.