Sammi Argir (right) and Katelyn Leiden (left) compete in the 60m race during the UMAC Indoor Championships. Both finished in the top eight. (Cable Photo/Maggie Grob)

Women’s Track & Field Win UMAC Championship; Men Place Third

Dylan Zimmerman

The College of St. Scholastica men’s and women’s track and field teams competed in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) Indoor Championships this past weekend, which was hosted on campus at the Burns Wellness Fieldhouse. The women’s team proved to be atop the competition yet again as they were crowned conference champions for the eighth consecutive year. The men’s team, who had a streak of seven-straight championships as well before the meet, weren’t able to repeat for the eighth time as they finished in third place.

The championships lasted two days, with the first round of competition beginning on Friday. The women’s team got off to a fast start, winning three events on day one. Casey Hovland took the rest of the field by storm as she cruised her way to a first-place finish in the 5000m run. Hovland ran it in a time of 18:24.08, which was almost two minutes faster than the second-place finisher. Also winning an individual event on the day for the women’s team was Taylor Gibson, who took first in the 400m race with a time of 1:00.51. The final first-place finish on the day for the women’s team came from the combination of Sammi Argir, Anika Kling, Mady Urman, and Breanna Shofner as they won the 4x200m relay with a time of 1:49.11. Hannah Russert put together a runner-up performance in the long jump with a distance of 16’5.25”.

The men’s team also had a first-place finish on day one of the competition thanks in part to Jacob Gallagher’s notable performance. Gallagher, who held the record before the conference meet for the 5000m, broke his very own record with a new time of 15:27.67. Patrick Murphy and Jack Peru took second and third in the long jump too add to the point total for CSS.

The second day proved to be more successful than the first for the women’s team as they added four more first-place finishes to the resume. Gibson took her second individual title home in as many days with a time of 2:18.73 in the 800m run. Argir also added to her hardware collection with a victory in the 200m for her third straight year. Russert, who had a runner-up performance on Friday, completed her quest for revenge with a victory in the 60m hurdles. Much like Argir, it was Russert’s third consecutive year winning the event at the UMAC Indoor Championships. The fourth and final first-place finish for the women’s team came from the 4x400m relay team of Argir, Gibson, Kling, and Shofner. The relay win marked the third on the weekend for Argir and Gibson, while Kling and Shofner each earned their second first-place finish. As if it wasn’t enough already, Argir tallied even more points for CSS in the 60m dash with an impressive time of 8:23, which was good enough for second. Natalie St. Marie and Emily Conley finished second and third in the shot put, respectively.

The two relay teams for the women have shown up consistently throughout the years here at CSS, which makes running for them all the more rewarding.

“Both of those events [4×200 and 4×400] mean a lot to me because it becomes something more when you’re competing with other people who are just as passionate about track as you are,” said Argir. “Nothing compares to crossing the finish line after winning a relay and knowing that I was a part of a team that left it all on the track to win it all.”

For the women, many would consider Argir to be labeled “MVP” of the meet for her incredible performances throughout the two days. Being leaned on by the team for consistent points is usually stressful, but for Argir it’s more individualized pressure than team oriented.

“Pressure wise, I don’t feel any coming from my teammates or coaching staff,” said Argir. “I know they genuinely want me to do well so that just helps my confidence. I think I place more pressure on myself than they could ever put on me because in open events it is just racing against yourself. In relays, which is where a lot of points came from, I put pressure on myself to do well so that my teammates have a better chance of running their best times as well.”

One of the newer members on the relay teams is first-year athlete Anika Kling, who looked quite confident in her first taste of UMAC championship action.

“As a first-year member, I feel grateful to be a part of such a strong, supportive team,” said Kling. “With all the support from teammates, parents, and coaches we were able to pull together another [conference] win and I’m just honored to be included in that.”

Kling has the same mentality as Argir when it comes to being a part of a relay team, as she also finds it more rewarding than winning in an individual event.

“I take more pride being successful in relays than in individual events because the feeling of winning is great, but winning with three teammates/friends is even better,” said Kling.

Swinging back over to the men’s team, Gallagher proved to be dominant yet again in day number two by winning the 3000m run with a time of 9:14.03. Also reaching the highest platform on the podium was freshman pole vaulter Wyatt Helgeson, who took home a first-place finish after clearing a season-best height of 12’7.5”. The only runner-up finish for CSS on day two occurred in the 60m hurdles, which was earned by Frank Cerar after finishing with a personal-best time of 9.04. Cerar also earned a bronze in the pole vault with a clearing height of 12’1.5”. Also racking up points for the men’s team was Easton Foss, who put together two third-place performances in the mile run and the 3000m. The last top-three placement for the Saints on the day was Davon Bryant’s time of 7.29 in the 60m dash.

Much like Kling, it was Helgeson’s first taste of UMAC championship action as well, and the first-year pole vaulter had a blast despite clearing less than he expected in order to win.

“Overall, I loved it,” said Helgeson. “It was awesome to see the whole team come together and support each other through the two-day meet. The height I had in mind before the meet to take first was 13 feet. I’m happy with my finish, but there is still a lot of work to do.”

The women’s team finished with a final score of 194.5, which narrowly beat out University of Wisconsin-Superior (171) for the championship. The CSS men’s team final score of 105 wasn’t enough to knock off Superior (237.5), but they also dropped behind the University of Minnesota-Morris (120) for a shocking third place finish.

Individuals will have one last chance to qualify for the NCAA Division III Championships at the Pointer Qualifier, which will be held at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point this Saturday.