GULF SHORES, ALA.—The McPherson College men's and women's track and field teams wrapped up its season on Saturday at the NAIA Outdoor Championships in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The Bulldogs sent 14 qualifiers and competed in 11 different events. The Bulldogs finished strong, coming home with four new personal best times, two new school records, and two All-American plaques.
After practice sessions on Wednesday, the competition got underway Thursday afternoon. The first event for the Bulldogs was the men's hammer throw. Representing the Bulldogs was Tanner Trigg, who is the reigning KCAC champ and was competing at nationals for the first time. Although the elevation between McPherson and Gulf Shores isn't that different, implements tend to not fly as far at sea level. Tanner's best throw on Thursday was a 49.59, which landed him in 30th place.
Next up were the women's and men's 4x100m relay events. The Bulldogs had a team in both races, and both finished in the top ten. The Bulldog women's team made up of Jaivion Lattimore. Destiny Johnson, Diamond Blaylock-Norris and Amy Braimbridge were up first, and they ran a personal best 47.41, but were kept out of the finals, finishing in ninth place. Their time was the also the first school record to fall on the weekend.
The men's team consisting of Xavier Taylor, Omar Sabur, Amari Heisser and Hunter Sury took the track following women's race, and they also ran a personal best with a time of 41.37. Unfortunately, they just missed out on the finals, finishing in 10th place.
After a short recovery from the 4x100 meters, Sury was back on the track for the 200-meter dash. He had a strong showing, running 21.70 and landing in 21st position. Brandt Wolters wrapped up day one, competing in the men's javelin. Wolters was in the final flight and finished in 15th place with a throw of 58.85 meters.
Day two began with Heisser in the 110m hurdles where he finished in 29th with a time of 15:39. Next up was Sury again, this time in the men's 100m dash. He finished with a time of 10.80, good enough for 23rd place. An hour or so after the 100m, Braimbridge ran her second event of the championships, the women's open 400 meters. She entered the weekend with the second fastest time in the nation and found herself in the second heat on Friday afternoon. She went out in 55.19, winning the heat and qualifying for Saturday's final. Joining her in the 400 was Genevie Rivera. She came through with a top 20 finish in a time of 58.38.
After the 400, it was back to the throws venue where Dylan Templeman was competing in the men's discus. In his final throw in the prelims, he let loose a throw of 49.09, which got him into the finals, which consisted of the top nine throwers from three flights. In the finals Templeman was unable to improve on his prelim distance, but he still wound up in sixth place and earned the Bulldogs' first All-American plaque.
Unfortunately, day two of the competition ended in disappointment for the Bulldogs. The women's 4x400m relay team of Tatelyn Lasley, Braimbridge, Blaylock-Norris and Rivera were in the fastest of the three heats and came in third with a personal best time, and a new school record of 3:50.82. The top two in each heat plus the next two fastest times make it into the finals. The Bulldogs were 3,000th of a second behind the second place finisher in their heat, and even though they had a faster time than the top two finishers in the final heat, they ended up missing out on the finals because of the way the qualifiers are determined.
Saturday got off to an early start for the Bulldogs as Jesse Freeman took part in the 6 a.m. marathon, which meant he had to leave the hotel at 4:45 am. This was the second year Freeman qualified for the event. He ran the 2018 race in just under three hours and 15 minutes. Building on the experience he gained a year ago, this time he finished the 26.2 mile race twenty minutes faster, placing 14th with a time of 2:53.59.81.
The championships ended for the Bulldogs with the finals of the women's 400m. The conditions were tough, with 91 degrees at race time and the humidity hovering around 70 percent. Braimbridge was nine hundredths off her prelims time, finishing with a 55.28 which placed her in fifth place. By virtue of her top eight finish in the standings, she earned All-American status.
Bulldog head coach, Robert Spies commented on the performances of his runners and throwers by saying, "I was extremely proud of our effort this weekend. The competition and conditions were tough, but we went out and gave great effort."
Only three, Wolters, Freeman and Sury of the 14 Bulldogs who competed this weekend were seniors, so the future looks bright for the Bulldog track and field programs.