To end their indoor season, six qualifying Hillsdale track and field athletes will compete in the NCAA Division II National Championship on March 11 – 13 in Birmingham, Alabama.
Senior Kajsa Johnasson will race in the 60 and 200 meter dashes before joining her teammates junior Alanna O’Leary, freshman Shura Ermakov, and sophomore Dakota Stamm in the 4x400m relay.
“I’m really confident going into nationals,” Johannson said. “I’m in a good place in terms of all the rankings.”
Johannson ran 7.58 seconds in the 60 meter dash at the Hillsdale Tune-Up meet and 24.16 seconds in the 200 meter dash at the G‑MAC Conference Championship, earning her the trip to the national meet.
“This is the biggest group I’ve experienced going to nationals with here at Hillsdale, which is really fun,” Johansson said. “The goal is to get more people there, so I’m excited.”
The track and field team brought her solid community at Hillsdale as a freshman, Johansson said.
“Getting to grow with those people has been cool,” Johnasson said. “Seeing all the younger kids come in every year has been really fun as well.”
Junior Ben Raffin will compete in the pole vault at Nationals after qualifying with a mark of 5.01 meters at the G‑MAC championship.
“I feel excited. I’m not going to change anything in my preparation, really,” Raffin said. “It’s going to be interesting because of COVID and all that, so I’m probably going to get tested a lot. But other than that, I’m feeling good, and I’m healthy, and I’m ready to compete.”
Raffin has been competing in the pole vault since his freshman year of high school and said it’s been his best event so far. He became more competitive in the event during his junior and senior years of high school and was a 16-foot jumper his freshman year.
“My growth has been exponential so far,” Raffin said. “I don’t plan on changing anything, just getting faster and stronger, but also I have a good team culture there at Hillsdale. I have a good path to grow.”
Competing in the shot put, junior Nikita Maines qualified for nationals when she threw a mark of 14.77 meters at the Hillsdale Wide Track Classic.
“I’m just trying to go in very open minded and just really give it my all,” Maines said. “I haven’t ever competed in a situation like this so I’m just going to go out there, have fun and throw my heart out, and we’ll see where I end up.”
Competing since her freshman year at Hillsdale, Maines made indoor nationals her sophomore year but couldn’t compete due to COVID-19-related cancellations.
“I just feel really grateful,” Maines said. “I think a lot of people don’t really see how our school is different from other schools, or our division, because some schools can’t compete, and they don’t have nationals. So more than anything, I’m just grateful that I actually can do something that I love.”
The meet will begin on Friday, March 12 with Johansson, Depies, and Maines competing in their respective events. Raffin and the women’s 4x400m relay will compete on Saturday, and if Johansson makes finals in her events, she will race Saturday as well.