While last week’s Hilltop Awards marked a celebration of the end of the season for most of the Dons, the grind isn’t quite over for a select few teams. The men’s and women’s track and field teams, for one, have at least one more competition left in their season this weekend, and, if all goes well, could be on their way to the first round of the NCAA championships. Although the NCAA selections will not be released until mid-month, Coach Lehman-Winters is confident in the team. “Based off the marks our team has put on the board, it looks like we will have a very strong mens and womens contingent heading to Sacramento at the end of the month for the NCAA preliminary round.”
After cleaning up at the Hilltop Awards with honors for their academic prowess and individual performances, the Dons of track and field went right back to business, heading down to Sacramento, Calif. to compete in the Payton Jordan Invitational on May 3. There, seniors Marie Bouchard and Jacob Allen stole the show with Allen coming in 2nd, posting a time of 3:44.02 in the 1,500m race, a personal best and a Dons record. Not far behind Allen were freshman Henry Mong and junior Scott Halsted coming in sixth and seventh place, respectively. For her part, Bouchard set a personal best time of 9:41.32 in the 3,000m steeplechase event. Her time also ranks her sixth in the event internationally.
Just two days later, on May 5, the Dons travelled to Sacramento, Calif. to compete in the Sacramento State Open. At the competition, the men made their mark in the 1,500m race. Freshman and newcomer to the team Isaias DeLeon posted a time of 3:50.11, posting his personal best time in the event and landing him in fourth place. Junior Mohamed Aziz and senior Ben Alcock were mere seconds behind DeLeon with times of 3:53.19 and 3:54.33, respectively, which earned them fifth and sixth place.
On May 12, both the men’s and women’s teams will travel north to Portland, Ore. to compete in the Portland Twilight, which is described on the meet’s site as the “last chance opportunity for NCAA athletes to qualify for the national championships.” This event will be pivotal for the Dons, as it could make or break the rest of their season. The all-or-nothing stakes are nerve wracking, but each team’s strengths, and awareness of these strengths, can help carry them. “On the men’s side, we are stronger at every distance,” Coach said. “And on the women’s side, we have multiple women who are capable of winning an NCAA title.”
The Dons will be preparing hard for this meet in hopes of being able to attend the NCAA Championships preliminary round in Sacramento from May 24 to 26. Last year, the Dons were able to make it to the West Regional Championships, but they were not able to crest over to the next and final round of the competition – with the exception of now-senior Charlotte Taylor, recipient of the Anne Dolan Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year award. In 2017’s Championship, Taylor made it to the final round for the 10k and took home the first place title.
With their season-long momentum continuing through the end of the academic year, the track and field team have a large task on their hands (and in their running shoes): push themselves to qualify for the Championships, all the while dealing with the normal stress of making it through final exams in one piece. Coach Lehman-Winters and the rest of the coaching staff aren’t too worried about the latter. “We are fortunate because as a staff, we don’t have to worry too much about them excelling in this area,” she said. “They are all very self motivated and are fully invested in doing the best they can not only on the track but also in the classroom.”
With their proven proficiency in academics and in their events, the Dons have shown themselves to be more than capable of tackling both tasks, and with any luck, will see themselves to NCAA-qualifying victory in Portland.
Featured Photo: Senior Ben Alcock will be joining the team in their attempt to post NCAA-qualifying times in Portland. DONS ATHLETICS/FLICKR