ALLENDALE, Mich. -- Madison Smith could hardly watch. It’s hard to blame her when her Central Missouri team didn't control it's own fate.
“I was so nervous going into the 4x4,” Smith said. “I wasn’t running in it, so it was hard to watch.”Going into the final event at the 2015 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field National Championships, Central Missouri led by nine points. Lincoln (Mo.) was in second place and needed to win the 4x400 relay to capture the title. They were leading the race, too, but a bad handoff forced a runner outside of her lane. When she returned, she bumped another runner and Lincoln was eventually disqualified.
So the Jennies are the 2015 outdoor national champions, a first for the school. They also won the indoor title this season.
“We have a team of amazing athletes,” junior Heavin Warner said. “It’s an honor to be on the same team as them. Crazy things happen at nationals. Some things go your way and some don’t. It’s surprising in that it was a nail-biter during the 4x4. I couldn’t watch.”
Central Missouri won with 59 points, Lincoln was second with 50 followed by New Mexico Highlands (42), host Grand Valley State (41) and Pittsburg State in fifth (31).
Warner got the team going on Thursday when she defended her title in the hammer throw with a toss of 211-1 feet (64.35 meters). But she wasn’t thrilled with her 20th place finish in the discus.
“Discus didn’t go my way,” Warner said. “And that’s OK. We had another girl in discus, who wasn’t even ranked [Brooke Swearingin] and she threw huge. It was awesome because she’s a senior.”
Swearingin finished sixth with a toss of 162-5 (49.52).
Kirk Pedersen, one of Central Missouri’s co-coaches, along with Kip Janvrin, said there were several pleasant surprises this week.
“Our pole vaulter [was a surprise],” Pedersen said of Brittany Kallenberger, who won the event with a leap of 13-1 1/2 (4.00 m). “I think she was seeded third coming in and she jumped really well on Thursday and that got the ball rolling for our team. Erika Kinsey jumped phenomenal and placed fourth. I think she was a little down about that. But she came back to win the high jump and she almost won the triple jump.”
Janvrin said Kallenberger and Warner’s wins were huge.
“We knew a lot of our good points were going to come on Thursday and Friday,” he said. “We had nothing on the track after 2 p.m. today. So we had this big lead and it was kind of an eery feeling watching everyone get closer and closer and not really knowing what was going to happen.”
Here are the nine members of the women’s team and their events: Nikki Douglas (400 hurdles), Megan Glamann (10,000), Victoria Jackson (heptathlon), Erika Kinsey (long jump, high jump), Kallenberger (pole vault), Zoe Sharplin (heptathlon, 100 hurdles), Smith (heptathlon, 100 hurdles, high jump), Swearingin (discus) and Warner (shot put, discus, hammer throw).
“Another big key for us was Megan Glamann,” Pedersen said. “She’s a girl that had never been to the national meet and she placed placed fifth in the 10,000 meters [in 34:54]. Those were very, very valuable points for us.”
Smith said she knew the Jennies had a shot at a title after last season.
“After outdoor nationals last year, when we finished sixth as a team, Kip told me ‘I think we have a shot at a trophy for outdoor nationals next year,’ ” said Smith, a native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri. “So going into indoor, we thought we had a shot at a trophy.”
Janvrin didn’t want to be over-confident, but he’s glad his team won.
“We’ve been ranked No. 1 for the past seven or eight weeks, so we knew we’d be in the mix to win,” he said. “Did we think we could? Probably not. But we have good athletes in good events. We knew we needed to make hay in the field events and get a big lead [in points] and hang on. Fortunately, we won.”
Pedersen said it was nice to have such a big fan base here in Michigan, on the campus of Grand Valley State.
“A big aspect of our success was the number of student-athletes, fans and family that came to cheer our team on,” he said. “It’s such a big motivator for our kids.”