With both the women’s and men’s squads finishing in the top half of the Northwest Conference in 2012, Linfield’s track & field program made steady progress toward its ultimate goal of winning a league championship (or two).
Bolstered by three individual titles and one relay victory, the Wildcat women took third overall, their highest finish in five seasons.
“We had some pretty outstanding individual women,” said head coach Travis Olson.
That might be a bit of an understatement. Linfield’s female tracksters absolutely assaulted the Wildcat record books, setting or improving upon a total of 13 top-10 marks.
At the top of that long list of record breakers was pole vaulter Catherine Street.
Putting an emphatic end to arguably one of the greatest careers in Linfield track & field lore, the senior captured both the indoor and outdoor NCAA titles, raking in a hoard of accolades along the way. She broke her own school record and briefly held the all-time Division III record, became a seven-time All-American and four-time conference champion, and was named the USTFCCCA National Women’s Field Athlete of the Year.
Fellow vaulter Misty Corwin became a two-time All-American with her eighth-place showing at the NCAA Championships.
Anna LaBeaume was Linfield’s highest individual point contributor at the NWC Championships, winning both the shot put and the hammer in addition to placing second in the discus. She recorded career-best tosses in the hammer and discus, and now ranks among the top-five for all three events in program history.
Veteran Shanna Peaden stole the show in the distance corps. She was runner-up in the 10,000-meter run and sixth in the 5,000 at the league championship meet after recording top-10 marks in both events earlier in the season. Teammate Nelly Evans took second in the 800, an event in which she ranks eighth all-time in the Linfield record books.
Setting a blistering pace in the sprints was Melany Crocker. In addition to finishing second in the 100 and third in the 200, she moved into the top five in program history for her two individual events and teamed with Street, Corwin and freshman Halsie Peek to break the school record in the 4x100 relay.
Peek had a notable rookie season, recording the fourth-fastest time in the Linfield record books in the 100-meter dash.
About the only negative that can be said was the absence of two of Linfield’s brightest stars – Mimi Seely and Kate Shear – at the championship meet due to injury. Even so, Olson avoided dwelling on the “What if?”
“There are definitely some points that were left out there that I think could have made the difference, for sure,” he said. “You just never know. That happens with every team so you just have to go with what you’ve got.”
The Linfield men improved upon their fifth-place finish in 2011, taking fourth at this year’s NWC Championships. Unlike the women, however, the men’s success was achieved under the radar.
“We didn’t have one individual winner in the conference,” Olson pointed out. “But I think that says a lot about our team and how well we came together. We picked up a lot of those third and fourth places and were able to make that add up to a fourth-place finish.”
Perhaps the finest example of Linfield’s depth came in the 5,000, in which Scott Gage, Alex Van Slyke and Joe Gladow crossed the tape in immediate succession to claim fourth, fifth and sixth places. Gage was also runner-up in the 10,000, Van Slyke took third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and Gladow placed seventh in the 10,000.
Eric Weinbender pulled off a tough double in the 1,500- and 800-meter runs, finishing fourth and sixth, respectively. Linfield ended up scoring a fair number of points in the 800 with Lester Maxwell and Lucian Battaglia taking third and fourth place in the event.
All-around athlete Michael Madden also contributed points to Linfield’s total with a sixth-place effort in his first multi-event championship.
Highlights from the Wildcat throwers and jumpers included Drew Wert’s fifth-place finish in the shot put and two top-eight showings from Sean Boedeker and Josh Melander in the javelin.