Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind., played host to the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships May 23-25. The Lions sent three athletes to the meet to compete against the nation’s best.
Thursday night was an atypical spring day in Marion in that it was cold and windy. Sophomore Connor Hatfield was up first for the Lions, running in the second heat of the preliminary round in the 3000m steeplechase. He ran a tactically sound race to finish 2nd and advance to the finals on Saturday. His time of 9:17.83 was a personal best after the pace was slow early.
Later that evening under the lights, Anthony Simpson and Jason McLeod competed in the 10000m final. After a slow opening 5k, the men quickened the pace. Simpson raced to a new lifetime best of 31:14.19 to finish 11th in the country. McLeod held on to finish 12th in 31:29.57. Head Coach Bryson Harper stated he was “pleased with the result and already looking forward to the fall season” when they were finished racing. “These two guys raced their best and competed against a stellar field. To set a personal best in a championship race with the wind howling down the backstretch is tough, so just looking at the results you can tell that these guys did well,” said Coach Harper.
After a day of rest, Hatfield lined up Saturday afternoon for the 3000m steeplechase. The pace got faster and faster, and Hatfield crossed the line 7th in 9:15.44 for another personal best. His 7th place finish earned Hatfield his first All-American award, making him the 9th Lion runner with those honors. “I’m so proud of Connor for grinding out the final,” commented Coach Harper. “His calves were tight after the prelims and never really got better. To run two personal bests in two days in those conditions just shows how talented Connor really is. His hard work over the past two seasons definitely paid off when he stayed engaged in racing late and earned his first All-American award.”
The NAIA Nationals doesn’t mark the end of the season for the Lion runners. A small group will continue to race into the summer, with the main focus on running fast at the Music City Distance Carnival on June 1, hosted at Vanderbilt University.