GOSHEN, Ind. - For the third-consecutive year, exactly eight members of the Goshen College men's and women's track and field teams will head to the NAIA Outdoor National Championships. This year's championships will be held on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion (Ind.) from Thursday through Saturday.
The Maple Leafs have earned at least one All American honor in each of the last seven seasons. They will, however, be without four-time All American Tina Peters (race walk) for the first time since 2006.
In terms of seeding, Goshen's best chance at another national award comes in the men's hammer throw. The school and Mid-Central College Conference Championship record holder, junior Matthew Webster, enters Thursday's competition ranked sixth in the nation. His career best of 191-feet, 11-inches is less than five meters off the top mark in the country this season.
Webster will also be competing in the discus on Friday. He enters the 33-man field seeded 14th with a mark of 162'4.5".
Friday is the busiest day for the Maple Leafs as five Goshen athletes will see action. In addition to Webster, senior Kyle Laker will also be in competition in a field event. A national qualifier back in 2009, Laker is back on the national stage with a school record in the high jump (6'7"), which has him seeded 26th this time around.
On the track on Friday, the Leafs have three qualifiers in the race walk. Over the past four years, Goshen has racked up a total of nine All American honors and four national championships - combined indoor and outdoor - in race walking events. However, this year's trio will all be looking for their first outdoor national honor.
In the women's 5k race, sophomore Erin Helmuth is seeded 10th with a time of 27:28.34. She earned All American status at this year's indoor championships and sits less than three minutes off the field's best time of the season. For the men, Jake GunderKline (11th, 24:14.14) and David Horst (15th, 26:08.21) will look to improve on their seventh and ninth-place finishes from the 2010 championships.
Saturday is the early day for the athletes with three Maple Leafs competing in the 6:00 a.m. marathon. Freshman Andrew Witkowski is seeded 48th in a large men's field - second among MCC entries - while senior Paul Versluis heads to the starting line in the 59th position. In the women's field, freshman Alli Beitler comes in with a ranking of 53 - also second among MCC competitors.
For complete coverage, including live video streaming, visit the official site of the championships.
Maple Leafs Schedule
Men's Hammer Throw - Matthew Webster - 1:00 p.m.
Women's 5K Race Walk - Erin Helmuth - 1:40 p.m.
Men's 5K Race Walk - Jake GunderKline & David Horst - 2:05 p.m.
Men's Discus - Matthew Webster - 5:00 p.m.
Men's High Jump - Kyle Laker - 6:00 p.m.
Men's Marathon - Paul Versluis & Andrew Witkowski - 6:00 a.m.
Women's Marathon - Alli Beitler - 6:00 a.m.