Winners take all
Three athletes seal individual titles on first day of NCAAs
LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Two athletes added additional jewels to their crowns while another captured her first during Thursday’s opening competition at the 2013 NCAA Division III Women’s Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Melissa Norville, an Illinois College senior, won her consecutive outdoor title in the long jump. Michelle Favre, a Ramapo senior, won the pole vault, completing a sweep of both DIII events. Favre won the indoor title earlier this year. And, Calvin junior Nicole Michmerhuizen won the women’s 10,000 meters, capturing her first individual national championship.
For Norville, Thursday’s triumph at Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Roger Harring Stadium was the seventh national title of her career. Top-ranked in the long jump entering Thursday’s event, she saved her best for last, posting a 20-foot, five-inch effort.
“I was seeded to win it, but just because I was seeded to win it doesn’t really mean anything, especially with the way the weather has been,” Norville said. “But I did feel good. Warming up [Thursday], I felt very relaxed. And even though I was nervous, my body felt really good.
“Even my first jump, I scratched and my second won wasn’t that great, I knew I could pop a couple of good ones so I felt pretty good, actually, jumping [Thursday].”
Wednesday’s rainy, chilly practice day and Thursday’s breezy conditions were a factor. After testing her approach in Thursday run-throughs, she backed up 'five shoes,’ a considerable distance from where she takes a typical mark.
But, though she spent most of Wednesday working on hurdle starts — she’ll also compete in the 100-meter hurdles and triple jump later in this week’s three-day meet —she could tell the track surface was to her liking. And after testing the long jump board on Thursday, she liked the Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex location even better.
“I was really excited,” Norville said of the track. “I was like, ‘oh, this is going to be great. And I felt the board in warm-ups and I was like, it’s a good board, too. I felt really good [Thursday].”
So did Favre, who cleared 13-5.35 feet in her title-winning pole vault.
Dissatisfied in recent weeks with her results — she’s been trying newer, longer poles to improve her height — she returned to a shorter indoor pole for Thursday’s initial competition vaults, although a newer pole was necessary to muscle through the clinching vault. Second-place finisher Anna Etherington, a junior from Washington (Mo.), helped push Favre through her new-pole struggles.
“I knew it would’ve been a struggle to win [Thursday] if I had to think about being comfortable and winning,” Favre said. “And Anna [Etherington] did really well [Thursday]. I definitely would’ve been freaking out. That last one she was jumping at the 4-15 (meter mark) and I was like really nervous, but I was excited, too, because she was going to make me jump at the bars I want to jump at.”
Favre, who took up vaulting on a high-school friend’s dare, is a former gymnast. She says the carry-over from her tumbling days proved an asset in pole vaulting.
“I think that’s my personality too,” Favre said. “I’m more an adventurous person. Just the strength in general and the body movement helps a lot from gymnastics. You’re gong upside down pretty much and I had no fears about that after doing back flips in gymnastics.”
Michmerhuizen won the 10,000 meters in thorough fashion, although it thoroughly depleted her energy.
“There’s a reason I’m tired,” she said, smiling afterward.
It was a happy tired. Her winning time of 35:45.08 left no doubt who spent the most time out front.
“I started out more in the back than I wanted to, but I ended moving to the front pretty quickly and after the first 1,000 meters I led most of the race,” she said. “That’s how I would have it if I got to chose. I was worried that the girls right behind me were going to come win in the end, but I ended up holding on to it so I was very happy with that.”
Michmerhuizen was top-ranked in her event, even sweeter considering she finished 20th in last year’s outdoor event. She’ll also compete in Saturday’s 5,000 meters.
“It’s been an awesome season and I’m so thankful and happy for all the support I’ve gotten,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful ride.”