May 16, 2013

My Championships Experience - Softball 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 senior Kate Snow writes about her experience at the 2013 Summit League Softball Championship: 

Wednesday, May 8
Our journey started this morning by leaving the DakotaDome at 6:30 a.m. so that we would have time to drive up to Fargo, N.D., and eat lunch before our scheduled practice time at 11:45 a.m. We decided to take the scenic route through Fargo while going to the field so we waited to eat lunch until after practice at 1:15 p.m.. We couldn’t check into our hotel right away so we went to Cold Stone to pass the time. By the time we checked in, we went to our rooms to relax before getting ready for the banquet. We got all dressed up and went to the banquet. Everyone looked great! I could hardly recognize people out of their softball jerseys. My coach asked me to do the invocation a couple days ago and since I always do our pregame prayer I figured why not. We all got seated and the introductions began and then it was my turn to go up on stage and pray. Boom, nailed it! Now on to supper. The food was great and we all had a good time. I was really proud of my teammates and the awards we won. After the banquet, we just hung out. We had a team meeting to refocus for our game tomorrow. After being up for over 17 hours I decided to call it a night. 

Thursday, May 9 
We played at 4 p.m. so we could sleep in. Caribou Coffee was at 10 a.m. if we wanted so a group of eight of us went and got coffee and then came back and went to breakfast. We had a couple hours to relax before we left for lunch at Jimmy Johns at 12:15 p.m. Then we came back to the hotel and had an hour to get ready before we had to leave for our game. On the bus we listened to our walk up songs to have fun and pump us up. We got to the field, warmed up, and we ready to go. Since we were seeded third, we played No. 2 Fort Wayne. Game time came and I was the DP in the nine spot. The game started off well as I drove in the first run. I was happy we scored first, but wasn’t going to settle for just that. We didn’t perform as well as we would’ve liked. I think nerves were a big part since this was our first time. But we were going to pull together and come out stronger tomorrow. 

Friday, May 10 
I didn’t set an alarm this morning since we didn’t play until 3 p.m., but I woke up at 9:15 a.m. anyway so I decided to go with Christine (Broders) and Matley (Jones) to get coffee again. After we got back, we went to breakfast with a group of teammates. Not long after that, our team met in the lobby to walk to a sandwich shop across the street. I was still full from breakfast so I saved my sandwich to eat later. We got to the fields early so we could watch part of the previous game. We put our cleats on and began warm-ups. Little did I know, that would be the last time I would lace up my cleats as a collegiate softball player. The game definitely did not go as planned. We didn’t hit the ball as well we would have liked. You could our team was playing tense and was not very relaxed. I was the last out of the game and I absolutely broke down. To know that I would never be able to step on a field with my family of teammates was heart-breaking. For the last five years, I put everything into becoming the player that I am today and to help build the foundation for the team that we are. I couldn’t believe how fast the time had gone. After we shook hands, our coaches talked to us and told us how proud they were of how we did and how our season went with it being our first year eligible for the league tournament.  To qualify and do so well was such an accomplishment. I couldn’t be more proud of my team and everything we accomplished together. After we all hugged it out, I went and hugged my dad and talked to him. He told me how proud of me he and my mom are. They’ve been my biggest supporters, I couldn’t ask for better parents. After we talked to our parents, we gathered back together as a team and decided that we didn’t want to stay and watch the championship game on Saturday. We stayed to watch the 6 p.m. game and it was gut-wrenching knowing that we should’ve still been in it. We only stayed until the fifth inning because it was so windy and cold. Our coaches stayed to watch the games Saturday, but we got on the bus and went home. We finally pulled into town around 12:30 a.m. 

Saturday, May 11 
Since we decided not to stay, we were just hanging out and checked the game tracker to see how the games were going. Later that night, I found out that Lindsey Boyd and I made the All-Tournament Team and I was absolutely ecstatic to get that recognition. I was also very happy to see Lindsey get that award, she is one of the most dedicated and hard-working people I know and she definitely deserves it! As hard as it was to have our season end early, it was humbling being chosen for the All-Tournament Team.
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. 

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. 

My Championships Experience - Women'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. 

Oakland senior Brittni Hutton writes about her experience at the 2013 Summit League Men's and Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championships: 

Wednesday May 8, 2013
YES! The day we leave for The Summit League championships was here. Unfortunately, the night before we left, and into that morning I was feeling a bit under the weather –a sore throat, minor headache, and achy body. I was telling myself the whole time, “I am going to be okay, I am healthy, I will be alright. Stay positive!” (A positive attitude always has your back) Despite feeling sick,  the night before we left wasn’t all bad though. Our teammate, Cady Pozolo made these beautiful images of every senior’s name consisting of images taken at a track. My name was made out of some pretty legit running items, but my favorite letter in my name was the second “I” in Brittni. Cady took a picture of lane one on the track – it made me feel awesome. 

An hour and a half before our departure to Ball State (the track where The Summit League Championships were being held) I went and saw the physician to see if I had strep or the flu, luckily I didn’t, I just caught a virus! This is only half of what happened that morning - my very loving, but very crazy mother, was calling my family doctor and calling me like a mad-woman to see if there was possibly a way to get me to my doctor then drive me to Ball State. Unsure of what I should do, ten minutes before I decided to board the bus or have my mom drive me, my family doctor called me and prescribed to me over the phone what I should do. Thankfully, he called because I was able to leave with my team and not have to drive with my mom. On the bus, I drank my body weight in fluids. However, the bus driver had a strict rule about using the bathroom on the bus – Emergencies only. I’m not going to describe to you every detail about how I felt, but I could not wait another second for a rest stop after driving for three hours to use the restroom.  By the time we arrived at the track I was starting to come around. We were all dying to stretch our legs out! (I already felt cramped up from not getting a shakeout in that morning.) Low and behold, a huge thunder and lightning storm hit; and delayed our workout even longer.  Everyone had already warmed up, which meant on top of being sweaty from the bus ride, we were now sweaty and smelly from running! So, for our protection we all had to sit on our hot, smelly, and stinky bus for a little over an hour.  Don’t get me wrong, I know safety is the number one priority it was just really hot, sticky and smelly!

The storm finally passed and we were all relieved to be able to finish our workouts. I felt pretty good running my race pace splits and being on a track. Ball State has a really nice facility, and I can already feel the track’s speed and strength. This championship will be phenomenal – I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen, who’s going to overcome and who will be victorious.

Thursday May 9, 2013
Pre-Meet Day. There are no sidewalks near our hotel. My teammate and I became very friendly with cars this morning during our run. Once we reached a country road, our run wasn’t too bad. We couldn’t find any soft ground to run on, but it was still a nice and relaxing run. Later, our two men's distance runners raced in the 10,000 meters. They did well, finishing in seventh and eighth place. Our freshman (Michael Cox) even qualified for Junior Nationals. (Great Job, Michael!) There was even a slight delay due to the weather, luckily it didn’t last long or else the 10k would have raced the next day.

Friday May 10, 2013
Race day - 3k Steeplechase. Ran a nice shakeout this morning. Weather was cloudy, but warm with a little bit of wind. Today was about racing the clock and trying to qualify for regionals in the steeplechase. Coach Rice and I believe that 10:42 might get me in for Regionals, but I wanted to run in the 10:30 range to be in a solid spot. The race went well, but I didn’t end up running the time I needed too. I kept my legs going the best I could and held third place overall with a time of 10:45. I’m not upset with my performance, but realistically, I’m training for a completely different race. Ever since I qualified in the 10k for regionals my workouts are focused on the 10k. Both ladies who came in first and second did a great job, though. I am truly happy to have the competition I have in this league. Another great performance of the day was our freshman, Gino (Vitella), who placed fourth in shot put and qualified for Junior Nationals as well! (Great job, Gino!)

Saturday May 11, 2013
Race day - 5k.  Ate a nice and hearty breakfast this morning - gluten free toast with almond butter and jam on top with a Luna Macadamia Nut Bar on the side. I also ate half of a banana with almond butter. After breakfast I filled two small buckets of ice and took a cool ice bath for about 10 – 12 minutes. Getting out that extra bit of lactic acid would be helpful later in the day. The weather turned out to be a little chilly, but it was nice for us distance runners. Not too hot or too cold. I would have liked to have run below 16:30 which is 79 – 80 seconds per lap in the 5k, but realistically you just have to go with the flow in the 5k. I got out hard and wanted someone else to take the lead with me in a 79 – 80, but no one was biting, so I held off and sat in second. When it came time to make my move, my legs had felt the race, but I believe my mind had gotten the best of me more than anything. Out of all my races in my college career, when it came to The Summit League Championships I put a lot of pressure on myself. It’s like I want everyone to know, “Brittni Hutton is here and she wants to race! She wants to win!” And I do, but it’s the little things like putting too much pressure on yourself and stress on top of that that really gets at you. That’s always been one of the harder things for me to control - the anxiety and stress I put on myself to race well at conference - but anywhere else I don’t feel or think of those things at a high level.  I ended up coming in third for the 5k as well, with a time of 16:59 flat. I’m not going to sugar coat it, I know I’m faster and better than a 16:59 5k runner, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I am stronger than that. Talk about the wrong time and place to have an off race, but here’s the thing, I’m not training for a 5k – my focus is the 10k.

This day was also full of two other great successes – my teammate and roommate, Bre (Breanna Peabody), came in second in the 400-meter hurdles. She also qualified in the 400-meter hurdles for regionals too! Our third freshman to do exceptionally well today was Jeff (Aririguzo) – he came in second place for both the 100 and 200 meter dashes.

Sunday May 12, 2013
There are other things that I could discuss about this championship that I let get to me, but in all honestly, those little things are not important. Although, I will mention one thing - for any team out there dealing with issues involving teammates, it’s not worth it. Let the past go and try to create something good with the time you have. Everything happens for a reason, embrace who you are with and create a bond with your team and coaches. Track can sometimes be an individual sport, but in the end who are you surrounded by at the end of the day? Your teammates and coaches, accept them for who they are, and make it worth your while. Lastly, my coach and I had a really nice talk today about The Summit League Championships. Coach Rice is a mentor and leader and always knows what to say. I am a very lucky athlete because even in high school my head coach, Brian Salyers always coached with the same dignity. For this, I am immensely grateful. These are two coaches that love this sport entirely and who inspire their athletes to appreciate it as much as they do. Coach Rice along with our assistant coaches and athletic staff has gone above and beyond their duties to help every athlete grow to their full potential. I am so thankful to have started and finished my career.  It was difficult to say goodbye to some of the most knowledgeable coaches I have come to know through my career, but Oakland is moving toward a greater future. It’s a bittersweet goodbye, but I would never trade any of my experiences for anything in the world. I love running and I love that I was able to compete with some of this sports greatest athletes in The Summit League.  


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.