ANGOLA, Ind. and FINDLAY, Ohio - Several members of the Goshen College men's and women's track and field teams got the 2012 indoor season underway at a pair of events Friday night.
Despite having just a handful of individuals participating, the Maple Leafs had four athletes qualify for the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships in early March and also saw a school record fall.
The race walk has become a staple of Goshen's success on the track in recent years and as was evidenced on Friday, will continue to be so this year. All four of the Leafs national qualifiers came in the 3k race walk (three male, one female), while junior Jake GunderKline (Yellow Springs, Ohio) also broke his own school record in the event.
"All five of our race walkers walked their personal bests," head coach Doug Yoder said. "All of our other runners competed well. We were using this as a measuring stick to see where our training has taken us thus far."
GunderKline's time of 13:39.26 was sixth overall, but was second among college competitors. It was also nearly 30 seconds better than his previous personal and school record of 14:07.58.
Also in the men's 3k race walk at Findlay, both freshman Mitchell Brickson (Yellow Springs, Ohio) and senior David Horst (Dalton, Ohio) qualified for the national championships. The Ohio natives walked to times of 14:56.79 (Brickson) and 14:59.83 (Horst), while junior Barrett Donna also got his season off to a strong start with a personal best 18:07.29.
In the women's 3,000 meter race walk, junior Erin Helmuth (Elkhart, Ind.) booked her return to the NAIA Indoor Championships - Helmuth was an All American in the 2011 event. She was the first collegiate racer across the line, finishing in a personal best 15:52.90.
A pair of Maple Leafs' relay teams also competed at the Findlay University Classic Friday night. The 4x800 team of senior Billy Funk, freshman Alejandro Rodriguez, freshman Jordan Smeltzer, and Brock GunderKline finished sixth in 8:32.84, while Funk, senior Allain Chaponniere, GunderKline and Smeltzer combined for a seventh-place finish of 11:08.03 in the distance medley.
Five Goshen student-athletes also competed at the Trine University Invitational Friday night. The Maple Leaf performances in Angola were highlighted by a victory for sophomore Kyle Mishler (Shipshewana, Ind.) in the high jump. He jumped as high as he stands (6'4") and was just two inches short of the national qualifying mark.
Freshman Moses Kaelo (Kapsabet, Kenya) ran a strong 9:46.81 to finish third in the 3,000 meters, while sophomore Alli Beitler ran to seventh (13:15.99) in the women's field of the same event. Making their collegiate debuts, freshman Thomas Leonard took fifth in the high jump (5'10") and classmate Kyler Lehman finished sixth in the 400 meters (55.64 seconds). Lehman also competed in the long jump where his best mark was 19'9 3/4", while senior Oscar Amaro-Renteria placed sixth in the pole vault, clearing 10'6".
A more complete squad will see its first full-team action next Friday (February 3) as they head to Trine University's second Indoor Invitational.