North Central Women’s Track and Field continues to excel

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North Central Women’s Track and Field only know dominance

North Central Women’s Track and Field completed yet another season sweep of CCIW titles this spring, making it four consecutive sets of indoor and outdoor track and field titles. The last time the Cardinals didn’t win was before any current athlete was on the team, and they won in some style at this year’s CCIW Outdoor Championships, winning by nearly 70 points as they dominated in almost every discipline.

“We actually won 11 events of 21, which I was floored by,” said head coach Kari Kluckhohn. “I don’t know if we’ve ever done that or if any other team has ever done that before on the women’s side. But a lot of it really comes back to the philosophy of the women believing in each other and not just thinking about only themselves, but about giving to the bigger picture and to one another.”

“It was so much fun,” said senior sprinter Lindsey Novak. “One moment that is still stuck in my head is I was warming up for the 400 prelims and the 100 hurdle race was going on and I couldn’t watch it because I was on the turf field behind the stadium and I hear all the North Central people freaking out. So I knew something good had happened. And that’s just where my head was going to. I wanted to see what times Denise, Julia, Katie and Alexis were all running. I personally couldn’t sustain myself in four events if I was just thinking, I want to win first place in this event, like you’re doing it for your team and building off of that energy is the only way you can win by that margin.”

Outstanding individuals recognized with CCIW awards

In addition to the top team prize, the Cardinals also took home the top two individual honors as well. On the track, Lindsey Novak was named athlete of the meet as she won four different events: the 200 m dash, 400 m dash, 4-by-100 m relay and 4-by-400 meter relay. She also qualified for nationals in the first three of those events, going on to earn All American honors twice with an 8th place finish in the 200 and fifth place in the 400.

“It means so much. I never, ever thought I would be an All American at all,” Novak said. “My grandpa was the first All American wrestler at North Central, and it’s kind of how I ended up at North Central. And as a kid, I said, like I wanted to be an all-American like him. And I didn’t even know what that meant. It has like family meaning to me almost. And it’s just cool to look back on all of that and see that you really can, like, push yourself and achieve things that you didn’t even know were attainable.”

“She’s really a unique athlete because her competitive mindset and ability and willingness to like go after it, you can’t coach that in somebody and you don’t,” Kluckhohn said of Novak. “Also, she’s also green to the sport. She’s only done track and field for, this is her second year. She’s never been afraid of competition. She’s wanted the competition. If she hasn’t had her best race, she doesn’t let it bother her. When she has a good race, she’s excited, but then she’s excited for other people too. So it’s one of those things where it’s not like, look at how amazing I’m doing. It’s about, you know, keeping it in perspective, being excited and welcoming competition and being happy for your teammates at the same time.”

Faith Ladin was named the field athlete of the meet at the CCIW Championships, in large part thanks to her performance in the heptathlon where she finished first or second in every even en route to a personal best performance and individual crown. She also finished third in javelin and was a member of the 4-by-400 relay team. Ladin then improved on her heptathlon PR at nationals, including a PR in the 800 m run en route to a 13th place overall finish.

“It was really cool to see that I didn’t expect to get that award because there are so many other athletes who I see like excelling and doing really good in their field events,” said Ladin, who previously won a conference title in javelin. “But I felt honored to be able to do that and to be able to contribute to those events. And it was really cool getting to kind of share that with Lindsey. That was probably the most exciting part by just winning it, both of us winning that, that was really cool.”

“She’s been at the national meet before and has contributed in multiple events,” Kluckhohn said. “But this was her first year where she was really highly, when you look at outcome, impactful in multiple areas and actually asking to do more at conference than maybe I even thought she was going to do at one point. But she came to a different level of just digging down this season and being able to like really pull herself out of that comfort zone and wanting to contribute at an even higher level than she already had.”

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the team points and stuff,” Ladin said. “And that’s what I strive to do. Like Coach Keri had mentioned, I asked to be in more events at conference because I wanted to be able to contribute to the team points and contribute to the overall score. And I’m thankful that I had that opportunity to try and do that.”

North Central Track and Field sets nationals qualifiers record

A total of 10 Cardinals athletes qualified for nationals. Novak was joined in the 4-by-100 m relay by Marcedes Jackson, Julia Babinec and Denise Partee. Babinec also competed in the 100 m hurdles, while Jackson ran in the 100 m dash. A second relay team, this time comprised of Calie Minkie, Kyla Miller, Annie Brandt and Hannah Jones, competed in the 4-by-400 meter relay, while nationals ever-present Alexandra Draves notched a PR in the hammer throw for a top-ten finish.

“That was the most I think we’ve ever brought, at least during my time here,” said Kluckhohn. “We covered more events than we’d ever covered at the national championships as well. One, we had people who’ve been there before and we’ve had people that were new at the meet. So it was a great balance of experience. And for others that get the chance to have the opportunity to compete, but also to be able to know what it’s like to be at the next level, to be prepared for the future.”

“This year was a whole lot different because past years I’ve only competed in javelin,” Ladin said. “So that’s a I that would be the first day I’d get that done and get to, like, watch everybody else. But this year I had to like, really be conscious of, oh, I have one more like one more event, one more thing. But then just having everybody there was really cool because past years we’ve had a few people, but this year was definitely more and just being able to watch more events in between like my events was really cool. Like that was probably one of my favorite parts, just getting to like sit down and watch Lindsey run and like, watch the hurdles, hundred and relays; those were really cool events to watch and just having more people there gave that opportunity.”

No signs of slowing down

With a fifth year of eligibility available to numerous current standout seniors, including Novak, there are no signs of slowing down for the Cardinals women’s track and field machine. For now, they’re happy for a rest, but they’ll return in the winter looking to set more PR’s, win the CCIW by an even larger number, and bring a yet more expansive group of athletes to nationals.

“I just want to have fun,” said Novak. “I mean, it’s a bonus year and I feel like if I can welcome that lighthearted attitude again and not put so much stress on places and times like, those marks come. I had the mindset this season that I wanted to be a national champion like, why not me? But it’s not end all, be all for me. And I think if I can focus on that outlook, the marks will come.”

“So for me, setting goals, I’m going to stick to what I’ve been doing, but goals is to improve my standing at nationals, to qualify in more than one thing,” Ladin said. “That’s a big goal for me next year. And just to be able to place higher up at nationals, that’s probably my biggest goal.”

“Right now I’m just breathing. I think we’re all just kind of trying to come off of this huge year because it really was an excellent year,” said Kluckhohn. “We had so many things go well. It goes well, though, because people are prepared for it and we have awesome coaches to help our athletes get to that point. And I always tell the team every year, you can’t rest on the laurels of past success. You like, honor and learn from the history and you want to be able to contribute to that history. But every year’s a new year.”