The Hillsdale College track and field squads opened up their season with some stand-out performances at the Saginaw Valley State University Holiday Open, including two broken records and 10 provisional marks.
Head coach Andrew Towne said the teams met his high expectations. Towne explained that he doesn’t think about records prior to meets but isn’t necessarily surprised when his athletes break them.
“The biggest thing I look for in the first meet is how we compete,” Towne said. “It’s not the meet we’re working for, but I want to see how they compete, and I thought we were a very competitive group.”
Senior Todd Frickey broke his own school record in the 60-meter dash this weekend, winning the event and meeting the provisional standard for the national meet. His time was a 6.81 — improving on his best performance last year of a 6.85. Frickey’s time earned him the No. 2 spot in the nation for NCAA Division II.
“I’m trying to focus on what I can control,” Frickey said. “A lot of times people get caught up in the outcomes but I’m just trying to focus on the process and coming to practice every day and trying to get better at the little things.”
For the past four years, Frickey has been a member of the Hillsdale College football team. This year, however, he will focus on track alone. Frickey attributes his early success to being able to focus on training for a single sport and working specifically on the things that lower his times.
Newcomers made a strong showing in the team’s opening meet. Freshman Ryan Thomsen put up a great performance in his collegiate debut in the heptathlon, breaking the record previously set by Justin Fawley in 2012 with 5,001 points. This mark meets provisional standards for the national meet and places Thomsen third in the nation.
“It was definitely a good start for the season,” Thomsen said. “I still want to improve a lot more, because some of the marks weren’t where I want them to be, but I had a very good day, and everything came together for a very good first meet.”
The heptathlon is a two-day event that includes jumps, throws, sprints, and hurdles, and is capped off by a 1,000 meter race. Points are awarded based on performances in each event. Thomsen’s favorite events to compete in are the pole vault and 60-meter hurdles — they’re also his strongest. After competing in decathlons this summer, Thomsen had been hoping to score 5,000 at his first meet. In the upcoming weeks, he will be focusing on running mechanics to improve his weak areas and improving on his base in the jumps and hurdles with the goal of reaching the automatic qualifying mark for the national meet.
Other provisional marks on the men’s side include Junior Anthony Wondaal and Senior Caleb Gatchell in the 3,000-meter, who sit in the top two spots in the division. Wondaal snagged his spot with a time of 8:20.57 with Gatchell close behind running an 8:21.72.
Sophomore Tanner Schwannecke is currently ranked third nationally for his performance in the 800 this weekend. He ran a 1:53.26 — his personal best.
Senior Ty Etchemendy also occupies the No. 3 spot in the triple jump after jumping 14.72 meters this weekend.
The women’s squad contributed four provisional marks in both track and field events.
Towne said seniors Allison Duber and Alexandra Whitford both had their best opening meets of their careers. Duber won the 400 meter with her second-best time of 56.9 and met the provisional standard for the event. She is now ranked third nationally.
“It was my goal to run a 56, but when I actually ran it, it surprised me a lot,” Duber said. “It just shows how well Coach Towne’s training works — to run that time so early in the season.”
Duber sees this success as a product of her senior-year mentality. She said knowing that her career is coming to a close only makes her work harder to inspire her teammates and leave behind a legacy that she feels good about. With a season goal to qualify for the national meet in an individual event, Duber said she’s confident in her ability and feels the strongest — mentally and physically — that she’s ever felt.
Whitford also found early success in the pole vault thanks to a new mindset this year. She is ranked second nationally with her vault of 3.79 meters — her second-best mark as well.
Junior Hannah Watts won the 800 meter with her personal record of 2:14.70 and is ranked fourth in the division.
In the weight throw, junior Rachael Tolsma also reached the provisional standard with a throw of 16.81 meters. She placed second at the meet, but is ranked 14th in the nation.
For the first meet Towne wanted a good balance of competition that was serious but not overwhelming. This Friday, however, a few athletes will travel to Indiana University to face off against Division‑I schools on a banked track in preparation for the annual trip to Boston which features a similar set-up.