BY MADISON SHAPLAND
At the Virginia Beach Sports Center in Virginia, the Fort Hays Tigers came out with “shock action” during the 2023 DII Indoor Track and Field Championships. Over the course of two days, the track and field team accumulated five All-American Honors, four athletes made the podium, and ended with a top-25 team performance.
The first day of competition brought excitement for the team as sophomores Nolan Churchman and Hayden Alrbight hit good marks in the first half of the heptathlon and the 400m dash.
After completing the 60m dash, long jump, shot put, and high jump on day one, Churchman sat 4th in the heptathlon with a total of 3110 points. The heptathlete set a personal record in the long jump with a length of 7.27 meters to give him 878 points.
Churchman nearly had a second personal best at the high jump, where his final clearance was 1.99 meters, just falling one inch shy of his record. He finished the day 20 points off of his day one total points personal best and was confident in making up for this difference in the 60m hurdles on day two.
“My score coming into this meet was not my best, so I knew that I could place higher if I did well,” Churchman said. “I ended up scoring about the same thing that got me into this competition though. But in the heptathlon, it’s really just about hanging on as long as you can, being consistent, and leaving behind mistakes to focus on doing your best in the next event.”
Churchman brought home hardware on day two finishing the heptathlon with the 60m hurdles, pole vault, and the 1000m run, where consistency got him onto the All-American podium for a third time. Churchman finished seventh overall.
“Staying consistent with my events really helped me stay ahead of the pack. Being a multi is a great experience because, even though it’s a high-stress environment, everybody’s out there and they want to do good but they also want you to do well,” Churchman said. “We’re all pretty close in the heptathlon as well. It makes it really fun to come out and compete with each other.”
Albright sprinted his way into the finals for the 400m dash. In his heat, his time of 47.77 placed him third. Out of the five 400m heats, Albright ran the sixth fasted time.
Albright showed up on day two and finished seventh in the 400m dash with a time of 47.72 seconds.
“I’ve podiumed in relays so it was nice to get an individual race up on the podium,” Albright said. “The race and finish felt really good. Now I’m just ready for the 4x400m relay.”
On day two, the Tigers earned four first-team All-American Honors, one second-team All-American Honor, and a men’s team finish of 24th with nine points.
FHSU’s women pentathletes, Mattie Rossi and Taylor Savolt finished the day with 3,740 and 3,523 points, respectively. They competed in the 60m hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump, and 800m run. Their scores put the pair in 10th and 14th in the NCAA DII Championship.
The Tigers also saw success in the men’s pole vault. Jacob Clark and Ryan Stanley jumped heights that also landed them on the All-American podium. Finishing in sixth place with a height of 5.20 meters was Clark.
“I can’t quite believe how surreal it all feels,” Clark said. “It was always a goal of mine to vault in the NCAA. Now I am jumping here and being successful. It means so much. All of the hard work is paying off.”
Following his teammate in seventh place with a height of 5.10 meters was Stanley, adding his seventh overall piece of NCAA DII Championship hardware.
“I really never imagined that my career would have been what it has,” Stanley said. “I think the feeling I am feeling the most is gratitude. Throughout the competition, I was filled with emotions of excitement and disappointment and confidence, but all of those have shown me that I really have an experience to be grateful for. An experience that I can’t get doing anything else.”
The Tigers walked away with an 11th-place finish in the men’s 4×400 Meter Relay. Albright, Ethan Lang, Philip Landrum, and Churchman crossed the finish line at 3:13.58.
The outdoor season will begin in just two weeks for the Fort Hays Track Team. On March 24-25th the Tiger athletes will travel to Emporia to compete in the Emporia State Relays.
There will be about a 2.5-month gap between the 2023 DII Indoor Track and Field Championships and the 2023 DII Outdoor Track and Field Championships that are set to take place on May 25-27 in Pueblo, Colorado.