As Adams State senior sprinter Sunayna Wahi went through her workouts with 23 of her teammates Tuesday, she saw and felt what coach Rock Light experienced.
“I was feeling sharp. I was feeling good. My teammates were feeling the same way,” Wahi said.
Practice, Wahi continued, was serious. The 12 women and the 12 men training on what coach Light described as a beautiful day in Alamosa, Colorado was for the NCAA Division II Men's and Women’s Track and Field Championships, May 25-27 in Bradenton, Florida.
“There is a different vibe,” Wahi said. “We all know what we want to do at nationals. The men and the women both want to place in the top three. It is an intense vibe. Everybody wants to be on point.”
Just to make the national track meet takes hard work and dedication. To excel at nationals, the focus needs to reach an even higher level.
“It was very motivational,” Light said of Tuesday’s workout. “You could really feel and see the kids are focused on this meet next week.”
Across the country, Division II track athletes like the ones at Adams State are going through their final preparation and fine-tuning to be ready to perform their best in Bradenton.All of the student-athletes have interesting stories about their road to nationals. Sure, track and field has an individual feel to it, but for squads like Adams State, ranked third in the USTFCCCA, the NCAA Outdoor Championships is truly a team sport.
The Grizzlies won the National Indoor title March 11. They want to do something special in late May.
“We are kind of greedy for that other title because it would be the first outdoor title for the women’s team,” Wahi said. “We want to make history. It is my senior year. I would love to be part of that first women’s outdoor title for Adams State.”
Thoughts of gathering points in the 100, 200 meter dashes and the 4x100 relay never entered Wahi’s mind when she arrived four years ago from Paramaribo, Suriname.
She came to Adams State for her major in geology and to be part of a successful track and field program. Seeing all the championships the cross country and track teams have won through the years made an impression on Wahi.
“To train in this environment is very motivating because we have so many people who want to be national champions,” Wahi said.
From day one, Wahi fit in because of her work ethic.
“Sunayna has progressed more than I could have hoped for,” Light said. “She looks faster now than I have ever seen her since I started coaching her four years ago. I am really proud of her development.
“Her discipline in her warmup and cool down is as good as her training. In the weight room, she is so disciplined in her technique. She is a top student, top athlete. It is the way she lives every day. It is why she keeps getting better and better.”
At the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Champions, Wahi finished first in the 100 and 200 and ran anchor on the 4x100 relay team that broke a conference meet record.
But the reason Adams State won the team title, beating Western State, was because of the overall strength of the team. Adams State is traditionally strong in the middle distance and long distance events.
Those runners have helped the Grizzlies win the triple crown in conference this season, placing first in the RMAC in women’s cross country, indoor and outdoor.
“We are proud our women won the triple crown,” Light said. “The indoor national title gives us great motivation to know that with the kids we take to the outdoor meet that we can win it.”Like any of the previous years, the Grizzlies are going to nationals and dedicating it to the seniors on the team.
“We have Jessica Scherrer who is an incredible senior,” Light said. “She will be running in the 300 meter hurdles and run third leg of the 4x100 relay.
“We also have Serena Canegan, who is a really good heptathlete and jumper. She had some tough injuries in the fall. She is coming around. She is another senior that has done incredible things in conference and the national level.
“Another young lady who has stepped up is Dianna Johnson. She is a sprinter. She has qualified in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay.”
Adams State also has several freshmen and sophomores going to nationals who could figure into the scoring for the Grizzlies.
“We have some really great distance runners who are making the trip,” Light said. “Aden Alemu will be in the 10K. Sadie Baker, who is just a sophomore, qualified in the 5K and 10K. Kaylee Bogina is a freshman who has qualified in the 10K.
“Eilish Flanagan is a freshman, who has qualified in the steeplechase. We have another freshman in Roisine Flanagan, qualified in the 1,500 meter. Malena Grover has qualified in the 5,000 meter and Oweneika Watson has qualified in the hurdles. She is really coming on.”
For Wahi, this is the perfect way to wrap up her collegiate track career at Adams State.
“This journey has been very enjoyable from the beginning,” Wahi said. “Honestly, in the beginning, the focus wasn’t to score a lot of points for the team and get championship titles. Now, finishing it off, I couldn’t ask for more. We want to go out and finish the deal.”
Grand Valley State will take large contingent to nationals
Grand Valley State women’s track and field program, which won its 18th straight Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Outdoor Championship, will take 17 student-athletes to the national meet.
One runner coming off a great meet is junior sprinter Angela Ritter, who was the GLIAC Women’s Athlete of the Meet for being the high-point athlete of the meet. Ritter placed first in the 100 and 200. At nationals, Ritter will compete in the 100, 200 and the 4x400 relay.