Business as Usual for Cardinals Track and Field
Coming off a third straight CCIW indoor title, the Cardinals women’s track and field team hoped to, as usual, not only pick up where they left off but further improve in the outdoor season and secure their third consecutive spring championship as well.
“We always tell the women that the goal is always to win the conference championship as a team because it’s more of a collective effort with a lot people and every different event area,” said head women’s track and field coach Kari Kluckhohn. “So it’s a lot more exciting when you have a conference championship where a lot more people can contribute. It’s more like a relay, where from event-to-event-to-event you see contribution from multiple people. Every year is different because every team is different and the way you grow through the course of the year. Some people graduate, you have new people come in, so every year you have to earn it. But we always go back to talking about the tradition and history that we want to continue with.”
They accomplished that goal with ease, winning CCIW titles in six different events to culminate in a runaway team championship. Senior Julia Babinec won the 100 meter hurdles with the first time under 14 seconds in all of Division III this season. Senior Kathy Myrda won the outdoor pole vault for the first time after two previous second-place finishes. Senior Jenna Fiore won the 1500 meters, junior Lindsey Novak the 400 meters, and sophomore Faith Ladin the javelin throw. The Cardinals also won the 4×100 meter relay composed of Babinec, Novak, Denise Partee and Marcedes Jackson. And elsewhere, Jackson set a new school record in the 100 meter dash as she finished second.
“Oh it’s amazing,” said Myrda. “It’s everything I’ve worked for and I had to have a lot of patience to get to this point and really just trust in the process, trust in my coach, and it’s awesome it’s a great way to graduate.”
Said Kluckhohn of her athletes’ various highlights: “Kathy’s pole vault was amazing. She had three PR’s, was first-attempting so many of her jumps, she went four meters so she’s tied for second in our program history and that is, pole vault is exceptional our history there… Julia’s first right now nationally in the 100 hurdles, she’s the only one under 14 seconds right now. That was awesome… Marcedes’ school record in the 100 was awesome, there’s just a lot of positives that have happened this year in all event areas.”
“We focus on just the process and doing your very best, and what the time and mark will be will be,” she added. “So when you tell them, because some of them don’t pay attention to that stuff which is totally fine that’s my job, to see them that happy about that accomplishment it’s really fun.”
A Strong Contingent Heads to Nationals and Keeps Looking Up
Performances not only at the CCIW Championships but across the outdoor track and field season saw seven Cardinals athletes qualify for five events at nationals: Myrda in pole vault, Babinec and Partee in hurdles, Ladin in javelin, Alexandra Draves in hammer throw, and the 4×100 relay team.
“Well I represented them in indoor and it didn’t go very well, but I think this time I feel I have my nationals experience so going back this season would be so much better,” said Partee reflecting on her experience earlier this year at indoor nationals. “And representing my team, it’s a big thing for me because this team is a big part of my life right now so being able to represent them is really nice for me so I’m excited. It was totally different than a normal meet so a lot of that pressure was on me just to represent my team… it just felt like a lot of pressure on me and I think that’s why I got so nervous, but this time I’ve got so many more of our girls coming with me, so many more of my teammates to come and cheer us on and it will definitely be a better atmosphere I think to not make me so stressed out. So I think going into next time in the next few weeks, just don’t be stressed out and that’s what I’m telling myself.”
The Cardinals finished in the Top 10 in 4 of their 5 events, including Babinec earning All American status with a PR time that helped her finish 4th. This final season saw seniors Babinec, Myrda, Draves and Jackson go out on top and underclassmen set new highs to surpass next year, all led by Kluckhohn who takes over the mantle as the senior figure in NCC Track and Field after the retirements of Al Carius and Frank Gramarosso on the men’s side.
“There’s so much tradition with the men and the women both that I think we both know, between the men’s and the women’s programs, that the goal is always to carry on that tradition and to keep bringing excitement every year after year no matter how many years we’ve been here,” Kluckhohn said. “I think the athletes actually bring that to us because of their youth and for me every year’s a new year, so to be able to experience their experience every day, day-in-and-day-out is really fun. I think part of having been here a while is being able to make sure I’m a strong, positive role model for the women. That they should always expect themselves to be at their best, that they can be excellent no matter what the outcome is, they should always give their best and never apologize for wanting to be their best. And that’s something we’ve been about forever.”
“Our team dynamic is amazing, and I couldn’t do it without every single woman on this team,” said Myrda. “And same with the coaches. We all are there for each other, I know I can always reach out to, look up to them for anything and everything.”
“We’re just focused on getting those points and winning and that’s what makes us North Central,” said Partee with a beaming smile. “We don’t worry about anybody else, we don’t worry about what other teams are doing because if they score than they score. But we score more than them so you know what, it doesn’t even matter if you win the event we’re gonna score more than you. And that’s why we’re that team. Everybody knows North Central. Everyone’s trying to come after us, but we don’t worry about anyone else and that’s what makes us better.”