Under-the-Radar Performances From Feb. 23’s Four MIAA Conference Championships

Spectators watch Albion track and field athletes compete at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids for the MIAA Indoor Track and Field Championship. In Holland, Michigan, Albion swimmers and divers were concluding their four-day MIAA championship meet. (Photo courtesy of Muddy Spikes Photography.)

On Feb. 23, Albion’s track and field and swim and dive teams concluded their MIAA Championship meets.

The men’s swim and dive team became MIAA conference champions for the second time in three years. They came into the final day of the championship meet in second, 15 points behind Calvin College. They finished the day in first 26 points ahead of Calvin, who finished second.

The women’s swim and dive team finished third. They finished 112 points behind second-place Calvin and 129 points behind first-place Hope College

The women’s track and field team finished third with 128 points, behind Trine University (155.5 points) and Hope (141 points).

The men’s track team finished fifth overall with 87.5 points, 1.5 points out from fourth-place Hope and 18 points out from third-place Adrian College.

While numerous Britons claimed gold and silver in their events, each championship meet also had numerous strong student-athletes performances that fell short of the general meet recaps. Full results can be found on gobrits.com.

Track and field student-athletes hit personal records

Jennings, of O’Neill, Nebraska, finishes his 800 meter leg of the distance medley relay. He hands the baton to Baumgartner to close the relay off with a mile. (Photo courtesy of Muddy Spikes Photography.)

The men’s contingent started out the day with a standout performance in the distance medley relay. The team of senior Alec Badgley, senior Shane Mills, first-year Nathanial Jennings and junior Chase Baumgardner finished third in a time of 10:51.17 after a tight race for first against Hope and Adrian’s relays.

“Each leg ran very tactical, where we sat in a good position and in the last few laps of each leg, we shifted gears and left it all on the track,” Baumgardner of Brooklyn, Michigan, said. “I was fortunate enough to be the last leg of the relay so I was able to watch each of our runners use everything they had in them to try and secure us a top three spot”

The men’s distance medley relay was the best distance finish of the day for the Brits. All four relay runners ran their personal bests in their respective legs.

“The last thing I remember before receiving the baton for my leg of the race was one of my teammates on the side of the track yelling at me and saying the guys in my relay, ‘Are giving it their all for you,’” Baumgardner said. “That sentence stuck with me throughout the whole race. I knew that as long as I stayed focused on the race, we were going to pull it off.”

Baumgardner also finished 13th in one mile run with a time of 4:42.69. Jennings finished 10th in the 800 meter run (2:07.21) and Badgley finished 15th (2:19.70). Mills competed in the 400 meter dash and finished 15th (54.73).

For the women’s team, Lauren McDowell, a first-year from Belding, Michigan, came back from knee surgery in December to finish eighth in the 400 meter dash (1:05.02) behind her teammate, first-year Cianna Brown of Arlington, Texas, who finished third (1:02.17).

McDowell begins her MIAA Championship 400 meter dash race. Despite recent hip surgery, she finished in 1:05, good for eighth place (Photo courtesy of Muddy Spikes Photography.)

“I was definitely nervous going into the 400 because I hadn’t really ran a 400 in competition since my junior year of high school and because I had knee surgery my senior year as well,” McDowell said.

Despite her previous injuries, McDowell said she had still expected a strong performance because of how well her knee had held up in practice.

After her individual event, McDowell finished out the meet leading off the women’s 4×400 meter relay with a split of 1:07.355. The team of McDowell, junior Emily Kinser, sophomore Chalara Sutton and Brown finished third with a time of 4:21.30 behind Hope and Trine.

First-year Harlan Pfefferle, senior Jessica Johnson and junior Karen Carroll — of the Michigan hometowns Monroe, Eaton Rapids and Parma — also had standout performances in their field events.

Pfefferle finished seventh in the weight throw with a distance of 13.95 meters and eighth in the shot put with a distance of 12.96 meters, both personal records. Johnson competed in the women’s weight throw and shot put where she finished 17th (10.07 meters) and third (12.84 meters).

Carroll competed in both track and field events. She finished 13th in the 60 meter hurdles with a time of 11.33 seconds and finished fifth in the pole vault with a 2.8-meter PR.

First-year swimmers compete with top-dogs

A group of seven first-year women’s swimmers and nine first-year men’s swimmers made a strong showing during the four-day MIAA swim and dive championship meet.

Though not on scoring roster, Elizabeth Cavataio’s times in many of her events were comparable to the individuals who made it past the preliminaries and scored points for their teams.

In the 200 yard IM, the Washington Township, Michigan, first-year swam a 2:16.80, which would have placed her 13th overall had she been on scoring roster. In the 400 yard IM and the 200 yard backstroke, Cavataio swam a 2:13.79 and a 4:54.01, respectively.

“Personally, this season was a season of confidence building and reconnecting with the sport,” said Cavataio, through email. “Luckily, with the help of my coaches and teammates, I was able to have a huge breakthrough swim on Saturday, swimming a personal best in my 200 backstroke.”

Similar to Cavataio, first-year Ashley Ketchum of Zeeland, Michigan, was not on the scoring roster but had notable performances in which her times were on par with the qualifiers.

“Everyone was swimming fast, and it really inspired me to swim and perform to the best of my abilities,” said Ketchum through email. “I’m so proud of our women’s team. We’ve been working towards a strong performance at MIAAs, and we put up a good fight.”

Ketchum swam a 5:20.13 in the 500 yard freestyle, a 1:58.40 in the 200 yard freestyle, and a 18:35.41 in the 1650 yard freestyle, which would have placed her 11th in the event had she been on scoring roster.

Unlike Cavataio and Ketchum, two men’s swim and dive first-years did make the scoring roster.

Connor Robertson of Zeelend, Michigan, preliminary swims placed him in the A final for each of his three events. He swam a 1:54.23 in the 200 yard IM, a 58:30 in the 100 yard breaststroke — coming in second for Albion and second overall — and a 2:08.28 in the 200 yard breaststroke — coming in third for Albion and third overall.

“I tried to take it all in and just stay loose,” said Robertson over email. “It was exciting to contribute to our second championship [win] in three years.”

Like Robertson, first-year Andrew Jonna was also on scoring roster for his first MIAA Championship performance.

Jonna, of Detroit, swam 59.82 in the preliminaries of the 100 yard backstroke, leading him into the B final where he swam a 1:00.30, tying with senior Hunter Jackman of Dearborn for ninth place.

“My first-year experience was one for the ages,” said Jonna via email. “Not only swimming fast was fun, but being surrounded by a great family was something that I will always remember.”

In the A final of the 200 yard breastroke, Jonna swam a 2:08.96, coming in fifth place overall. Finally, he finished the 1650 yard freestyle in 17:36.07.

“I couldn’t be happier to see the men bring home the championship,” said Cavataio in light of Saturday’s win, “and I definitely couldn’t be happier to be a Brit.

About Mary Noble 5 Articles
Mary Noble is a senior born in Fargo, ND, now based in Bay City, MI. She is a Spanish and English - Professional Writing double major, is a member of the swim team, and a sister of Kappa Delta sorority. In her spare time she's planning her next adventure abroad or binge watching Netflix.

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