May 14, 2013

My Championships Experience - Men's Outdoor Track and Field Edition

My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships. 

South Dakota State junior Ryan Schaefer writes about his experience at the 2013 Summit League Men's and Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championships:

Day 1: Tuesday, May 7th

7:00 a.m. We had an early departure and headed for Indianapolis. A long road trip was ahead of us, but needless to say we were extremely excited. This is what we have been training for all year. This is what it’s all about! It’s time for all the hard work and the hours spent on the “D” and in the weight room to pay off. We are taking two buses for the two-day trek. While some of us fell into an all day coma, others bonded through the great Forrest Gump. Between movies and a numerous naps, the trip is going by very fast.

We arrived in Davenport around 5:00 p.m. After we dropped our gear off at the hotel, we headed to the Augustana College track in town. It was a great practice environment. It was beautiful out, and man did we appreciate it! After being kept captive inside all year due to the snow, our legs were definitely smiling. With fresh legs, nice weather, and high anticipation: we had ourselves a fun practice.

We headed out to refuel our bodies around 7:00 p.m. when we were done practicing. We stopped in the Hy-Vee parking lot. Surrounded by many restaurants and the wonderful Hy-Vee buffet, we were certainly going to leave with a full belly. After our hour was up, we loaded back on the bus and headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before we started our final trip to the city. On our way, we were faced with a very scary situation. The bus pulled over and an ambulance met us in the parking lot. Our jumps coach (David) St. John, developed a kidney stone and needed to go to the hospital. He is such a big part of the team and we all hope he gets through it as best as possible. Many prayers are being sent his way.

Day 2: Wednesday, May 8th

While one bus waited for Coach St. John to get out of surgery, the other bus departed from Davenport to Muncie, Ind. at 8:00 a.m. After making a stop for lunch and one more at a rest area, we were finally in Muncie.  Instead of going to the hotel to drop off our bags in our rooms like we tend to do: we went straight to Ball State’s track. It is a very nice track, a great environment to be in. The university has a great layout for athletics. The football stadium, soccer field, and track are all side-by-side. Once again it is warm outside, something we have not been accustomed too much lately. The grass is long and green; it’s about time that it finally feels like summer. This new atmosphere is fueling our anticipation for competition.

The bitter-sweetness of this track meet is starting to become very apparent. This is our last meet of the year. All the training throughout this past year is coming down to this last meet. To some this will be the last track meet they ever compete in. This will definitely be the meet you leave everything out there on the track. With this kind of environment before us, and so much internal drive, I would guess we should be seeing some great performances and new personal records.

After we were done practicing for the night we headed back to the hotel, which is about half a mile from the track. We got our rooms with our usual roommates and headed out for supper. The bus stopped in the middle of parking lot surrounded with many different options. We scattered out like herd of cattle. Ruby Tuesday’s sounded extremely good to me, so that’s where I ended up along with quite a few others. With the large team we have, it’s hard to keep track of what everyone’s doing and where everyone is. We all seem to be doing so many different things at once. We are all brought together before bed each night as we have our team meeting.

Because our food arrived after we were supposed to be back on the bus, some of us had to walk back to the hotel. After that dinner and riding a bus the past two days, we definitely didn’t mind. The rest of the night included: showering, the team meeting, and some receiving treatments by the wonderful Danise Maas.

Day 3: Thursday, May 9th

And so we begin, day one of competition has arrived! The decathlon starts the meet off at 11:00 a.m. Bennett Mercil and Corey Greenway are our two competitors in the event. They competed in five of the 10 events today. With many personal bests set, the two were sitting in the top eight of competition. Corey was in sixth with 3,148 points and Bennett eighth with 3,118 points. The Men’s 10k was also ran today. Despite the rain we had some great performances! Trent Lusignan won the event while Michael Krsnak and Anthony Bongard, “Blu,” clinched third and fourth place. In the men’s hammer throw, Cullen Mack received an eighth-place finish and Ryan Ackman snatched up a 10th-place finish.

On the women’s side of competition, we had athletes that competed in the women’s 10k, pole vault, and javelin.

At the end of the day with those results our men’s team was sitting in second place with 22 points and our women’s team was in third with 29 points.

I woke up at 9 a.m. and ate the continental breakfast the Hampton Inn provided. The rest of the day consisted of resting in the hotel, doing a warm-up, and cheering on teammates.

I would like to give a huge thank you to Tim Potts, Tara’s father, who has been our super fan over the years. He is a very skilled photographer and doesn’t miss a meet. He goes around to all the events and captures amazing shots of us competing. Without much media attention, it is nice to have some pictures of us competing, and we would all have very minimal photos if it weren’t for him. So, thank you very much from all of us on the team.

We had another team meeting that night and with recovering Coach St. John’s closing remark, “Dig deep and find them stones.’ We headed to bed with a couple big days ahead of us.

Day 4: Friday, May 10th

Today was a lot like Thursday for me. I compete Saturday and so today involved a lot of resting my legs and cheering on teammates. There were many PR’s today, along with Kali Olson and Conner Berg snatching a third place medal in the high jump.

Although we have buses going back and forth from the hotel to the track multiple times throughout the day, there was a lot of walking being done. Because we all compete at different times, we headed to the track at different times and also out to eat at different times. It was strange to me that they did not have any sidewalks in Muncie, which did not make all that walking ideal.

The competition is very close and it is all going to come down to tomorrow. We will need this high level of competition we have brought so far to carry into tomorrow.

We had our last meeting before the final day of conference and headed to bed.

Day 5: Saturday, May 11th

As I sit here reflecting on this long bus ride home, it all starts to sink in on me how incredible of an experience this has been. With my very limited blogging experience (none), I will try my best to unravel this experience. I want to first touch base on this team. This team became my family immediately when I joined. The friendships have never stopped; exponentially growing and strengthening since that day three years ago.  Trips like these create special bonds that I am very blessed to have been apart of. Without a packed gymnasium to get jacked up before and during competition, we rely heavily on each other for that kind of support. This was definitely not a problem today, for it was final day of the league championships!

Seeing fellow teammates succeed is one of the most gratifying aspects of this sport in my opinion. When a teammate succeeds it just as exciting as personally succeeding. I can only speak for jumpers because I am not involved with the other events, but throughout the season the competition amongst other teams isn’t extremely strong in the sense that we want the competition to do poorly. We cheer each other on and want to see each other set new PRs. I have become friends with many other vaulters over the years, which has to be very different from other sports. The place I get in competition isn’t nearly as important as the height I get in the event. Gaining that new personal best is more rewarding. You are able to see the results from the hard work put in. This final meet of the season is a very different atmosphere amongst competition, points matter. I definitely don’t want other vaulters to fail, but jumping up places in competition is never a bad thing. Ideally, everyone would PR, I would just PR a bit higher than everyone else. The competition amongst each other is much higher, especially in the running events, where it is hard not to find a teammate cheering/screaming somewhere along the track.

Seeing the final men’s 4x400 meter relay was so bittersweet, I felt like we cashed in a buzzer-beater to win a NCAA title. Man was that fun! There were so many good things that happened this meet. With frustrations and injuries throughout the season, it is always satisfactory to have as many PRs and top finishers as we did! With everyone’s personal pressure along with the added Commissioners’ Cup riding on our backs, it was very fun to deliver in competition. We had many athletes place much higher than they were ranked coming into the meet. This was huge for us because of the how close the competition was between us and Kansas City, along with having some injuries where we were predicted to gain points. The men’s team ended up getting third place while the women snatched up a fourth-place finish. This was what we were predicted to get and just what we needed to clinch that Cup.

Captain Luke Leischner was very inspirational for me all season. He has always kept a positive attitude, which had to have been hard battling back from two hamstring injuries this past year. It was so fun to watch him win the 400-meter dash and bring home the gold in the final leg of the 4x4. Dominique Wright was a huge asset to have on the team this outdoor season. He has been an inspiration for me and has impacted me in many ways. His strong Christian faith has helped me grow in my own faith and that goes beyond track and field. He has so much speed and was looking to get a top finish in the finals of the 200-meter dash. He was looking very good going into the final stretch when he unfortunately pulled his hamstring.

My event is pole vault, which took fifth place today. I have been waiting all week for this day and was beyond excited. I am very lucky to be able to do this event that I love along side with my brother. We were ninth and eighth coming into competition and ended up getting fifth and seventh, which was satisfying. I felt really good down the runway and ended up jumping 15’ while my brother, Nate, jumped 14’6”. It was a good day for both. I am happily anticipating summer workouts and the next season.

Instead of going into each event and everyone’s placing, I will post the final results of the meet at the end of today’s blog. Some highlights of today’s meet were the men’s first-place finish in the 4x4 (3:14.63); Luke Leischner’s first-place finish (47.80) and Jared Foote’s third-place finish in the 400-meter dash (48.83); Jeremiah Ary’s third-place finish in the long jump (23’ 7.50”); Trent Lusignan’s first-place finish in the 5k (14:29.42) and the 10k (30:10.47); Men’s 4x1 third-place finish (42.03); Carly Carper’s third-place finish in the 100 meter dash (11.92); women’s 4x1 second-place finish (47.51); Shelby Assmus’ third-place finish in shot put (48’ 00.00”); Brooke Garner’s first-place finish in hammer throw (196’ 3.00”) and disc (168’ 8.00”); and Amy Paulzine’s third-place finish in the javelin (145’ 9.00”).

This trip was an overall great experience that I am so blessed to have been apart of. Many memories were made and I am so proud of my teammates.

Thank you for reading.

God Bless,

Ryan Schaefer

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Baseball Championship, May 23-25, the final Summit League Championship of the 2012-13 season. 

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