By Bridget Walsh
On May 25-27, three DeSales women’s track and field athletes competed at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Championship meet held at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio. Senior Nicole Umbenhauer placed 22nd in the javelin, senior Beth Dauer placed 11th in the 800-meter and junior Veronica Wheeler placed 18th in the 5K to conclude the 2017 outdoor track and field season.
Senior Nicole Umbenhauer competed on May 25, the first of the three DeSales athletes to participate in the championship events. In javelin, she placed 22nd on her second attempt with a mark of 34.80-meters.
“Of course, there is always room for improvement,” said Umbenhauer of her performance. “But I am just happy with the experience and ability to make nationals. Even with an outcome that I didn’t like, my coaches and [Beth and Veronica] were super supportive. I’m happy we were able to share the experience. Overall, I am extremely honored and humbled for the opportunity. Being in that atmosphere with the best in the nation was something I could have never imagined.”
Umbenhauer qualified for nationals after competing at the Swarthmore Last Chance Meet. It was at this meet that Umbenhauer shattered the previous school record in the javelin set in 2005 with a toss of 42.16-meters.
“Breaking the record was my top goal since I began as a freshman, so finally breaking it my last meet of my career as a senior was so exciting,” said Umbenhauer. “I never really thought I would make it to Nationals when I competed at Swarthmore, but once I broke the record, [Coaches] Gordon and Tom were pushing me to get to Nationals.”
Senior Beth Dauer competed on May 26 and placed 11th in the 800-meter preliminaries with a time of 2:11.56, just fractions of a second shy of qualifying for finals.
“Originally, I wasn’t thrilled by my performance at nationals,” said Dauer. “I was a little disappointed that I missed finals; especially since I ran a faster time the week before that would have qualified me for finals. Races like that can haunt you for a while, and they leave you questioning what else you could have done. I know I ran as hard as I could, for that day, and that’s all that matters. Overall, I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to run at Nationals and to be able to experience it with my teammates Veronica and Nicole.”
Dauer qualified for nationals after competing at the Swarthmore Last Chance Meet. She broke her own previous school record in the event with a time of 2:10.36.
“I was thrilled to break my own school record,” said Dauer of her accomplishment. “It is really rewarding to see the 10 months of training pay off, and there is no better feeling than getting my personal record.”
This national championship meet was the final meet for seniors Umbenhauer and Dauer. Both were extremely grateful for the experience and memories made while competing for DeSales women’s track and field.
“DeSales has always been an amazing experience for me and looking back I couldn’t imagine going to school and competing for anyone else,” said Umbenhauer of her career. “[Coach] Gordon and the other coaches are very relaxed and understanding. There was never any stress put on us athletes and no matter the outcome they were supportive.”
“Knowing that this was my last year of running, I tried going into every workout or long run with the mindset ‘This is it; give it all you got,’” said Dauer of her final season. “My teammates and coach were so supportive and encouraging and I definitely could not have made it through this year without them. I will definitely miss representing DeSales on the track. My teammates and coach have helped shaped who I am, and I am beyond grateful for being able to be a part of this team.”
Junior Veronica Wheeler was the final of the three athletes to compete at the National Championship. On May 27, Wheeler placed 18th in the 5,000-meter event with a time of 17:45.97.
“I was a little disappointed about my race because my time was significantly slower than my qualifying time,” said Wheeler, “but with the really warm weather I guess I couldn’t have expected very much better. It was mentally tough when I was feeling really worn out half way through the race, so I’m grateful I could finish. The whole experience of Nationals was awesome. It was really special just to be there among the best in the country and to be there with teammates helped to make it a lot of fun.”
Wheeler also qualified for nationals after competing at the Swarthmore Last Chance Meet. She broke the record previously set back in 2004 by Hall of Famer Gina Lucrezi with a time of 17:06.90.
“Going into Swarthmore, I didn’t have any expectations for myself so after getting my best time, that certainly helped boost my confidence,” said Wheeler of breaking the 13-year-old record. “This season training-wise was a little different from my previous ones because I raced in a lot of shorter, faster events, like the 1500-meter and the 800-meter. That helped my legs to get used to moving fast, and combined with getting in longer runs at a faster pace.”
This summer, Wheeler is excited to prepare for the upcoming, and her final, cross country season this fall.