The Carroll College Saints’ 25 qualifiers and three relay teams begin their quest for championships on Thursday in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
"The travel was a little rough for us, but everyone is here and ready to compete," coach Harry Clark said. "We had a great practice today, and we have a lot of experience on this team. Our athletes are excited about the opportunity, and as a staff we are excited to see how we compete."
Junior David Barnett is the top returning qualifier from last season. Barnett won the javelin national championship a year ago, uncorking a throw of 204 feet, 6 1/4 inches on his final toss to upend Pancho Saldana of Eastern Oregon. Barnett was the lone champion for the Saints last season. Barnett’s best mark this season was a throw of 200-5.
Chance Hyatt returns to action in the 1,500 and 3,200 relay. Last season, Hyatt picked up five team points after he placed fourth in the 1,500 in 3:54.29, a little more than two seconds behind first. Hyatt’s best 1,500 time this season is 3:48.76, the second-best in the NAIA entering nationals.
Chris Emter makes his second consecutive trip to nationals in the shot put, having picked up a single team point last year after finishing in eighth place with a best throw of 54-4.75. His best this season entering the championships is 55-1.5. Emter also appeared in the discus last season, finishing in 13th. He did not qualify in the discus this year.
Senior sprinter Kara Barth returns to the 400 and 1,600 relay. Barth scored four points last season after taking fifth in the 400 in 56.11. Her best time this season is 56.66. Barth also helped the women’s 1,600 relay team claim in indoor championship this past winter.
Carroll’s 1,600 relay team ran to a seventh place finish last year at the outdoor championship in 3:51.89. The team consisting of Barth, Hannah Porch, Keely Ehmann and Monica White enter nationals with a season-best time of 3:47.54.
Janie Reid gets another crack at the long distance after running to All-American status last season in the half marathon. Reid finished in eighth as a sophomore in 38:23.17. This season she’ll be in the marathon and her seed time entering the event is 1:27:01.04.
Sophomore Hannah Porch placed sixth in the long jump a season ago, leaping to a mark of 18 3.75. Porch did not qualify in the long jump, but will be featured on the 1,600 relay.
Crystal Schmidt heaved her javelin 151-6.75 to place fourth in last year’s competition. Schmidt brings in a mark of 150-11. She is also qualified in the high jump and heptathlon. She enters nationals with the fourth highest point total in the heptathlon with 4,572.
The Saints men scored 27 points and placed ninth last season. The women scored 29 points and placed seventh.
"We hope to set the tone and start with a national championship on the first day," Clark said. "David looked great today; he is well-rested, and his mind is right. Coach (Jimmy) Stanton has done a great job getting our throwers ready for this meet. Crystal has a great shot and making things happen in the heptathlon and the javelin, and I look for both of our women's pole vaulters to make waves here on the Gulf."
Nine Saints will start off on Thursday for the Saints. Schmidt and Bethany Lacock will get an early start in the heptathlon. Then, Schmidt and Keiton Klein will be in action in the javelin, which coincides with women’s pole vault, where Terah Cundith and Mika Robinson will be representing Carroll.
After that, Hyatt will run in the 1,500 trials followed by the beginning of the men's javelin, where Barnett will look to defend his title.
The day closes out with the 3,200 relay and women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, which will feature Carroll distance standout and 19-time All-American Leah Esposito.
"Leah has done so much to help us establish Carroll track as a nationally recognized team," Clark said. "I would like to see her close out her career with a strong finish and help us earn a team award in her final meet."