Lady Leafs’ track and field has best-ever finish at national championships

FRESNO, Calif. – The Goshen College women’s track and field team boasts a pair of national champions, three All-American performances and an eighth-place team finish at the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships, held May 24-26. Along the way it set a variety of program records.

After claiming individual titles in this year’s indoor national championships, both senior Petrana Petkova (Sofia, Bulgaria) and first-year student Tina Peters (Yellow Springs, Ohio) added to their hardware at Fresno Pacific University, taking the national titles in the 10,000-meter run and 3,000-meter race walk, respectively. Senior Laura Herr (Linden, Wis.) finished fifth in the marathon, while sophomore Deanna Kronk (Elkhart, Ind.) took ninth overall in the hammer throw, narrowly missing out on All-American honors (the top eight finishers in each event garner that award).

When Goshen’s four athletes were done, the Leafs finished with 30 total points, giving the team an eighth-place finish overall – the first time in school history a Goshen track team finished within the top 10 in team scoring at any national event.

It was an emotional end to the 2006-07 academic year for 13-year head coach Rick Clark, who has now witnessed his women’s team finish 15th, 12th, 11th and eighth in the last two years in both indoor and outdoor national championship meets.

“Obviously, this is another great step for our program overall and for those who competed,” Clark said. “This was an especially satisfying national competition for us since everyone that competed took it to the top end of their competitive range. No one was intimidated by the event or their competition and we really saw some intelligent performances that took their training, abilities and competitive insight to a very high level. Our athletes respected their fellow competitors but also earned the respect back from them by the way we competed. You really can’t ask much more than that from the athletes that you work with.”

Clark could have asked for cooler conditions during the extended weekend, however, as high temperatures in the mid-90s made most events more taxing than usual. Petkova grabbed her national title in the 10,000-meter run on Thursday evening, with temps slightly lower than in the mid-afternoon. The two-time national champion used a needed burst over the final 150 meters of the event to finish in 36:27.01, narrowly edging out Vanguard University’s Grace Jepgetich (36:27.46) in a literal photo finish.

“Petrana’s hard-fought kick in the last 600 meters of the race was what won her the national championship,” Clark said. “An early controlled pace kept the final time from being Petrana’s best ever (36:06.19), but the final stages of the race took the lead runners to the state of exhaustion as they hit the finish line.”

Petkova could not duplicate her top finish in Friday’s 5,000-meter race, as Concordia University’s Natalie Peterson claimed the best time in a clip of 17:24.33. Petkova finished third in a time of 17:43.76 for another All-American finish.

Petkova’s finishes concluded what was arguably the greatest collegiate career of any Goshen athlete – male or female – as the track and cross country standout compiled two national titles and 14 All-American honors as a collegian, by far the most of any Leafs’ athlete in school history.

“Petrana finishes with four All-American honors in cross country, four in indoor track and six in outdoor track,” Clark said. “She won the national title in the 5,000-meter race in indoors this year, and took another national championship in this weekend’s 10k. It will be a while before we see another athlete with the sheer talent and work ethic that we’ve seen out of Petrana.”

Teammate Peters may be the heir apparent, as the first-year race walker quickly moved to her second national championship in as many tries, again winning the 3,000-meter race walk in a time of 15:20.21. That clip was well off her national championship and personal best mark of 14:31.84 in this year’s indoor title meet, while only slightly slower than her 15:11.84 outdoor qualifying time – a pace that seeded her as the fastest entry in the competition.

“Tina held back in the early stages of the race but then took control for the last 800 meters,” Clark said. “As a two-time national champion and All-American as a freshman, Tina has her sights set on continuing to improve over the course of her career. She’s not satisfied at this point.”

Herr captured her second consecutive All-American honor in the marathon, as the senior posted a personal best and school-record time of 3:03.50 for the fifth-place finish. Herr finished sixth in last year’s marathon event in a time of 3:06.24.

“Laura tried some different tactics from her teammates by going out with a stronger pace in the first half of the marathon and then worked at maintaining a steady tempo in the later stages of the race,” Clark said. “That strategy paid off with a better result, both timed and competitively, than last year’s race.”

Kronk rounded off Goshen’s performances with an impressive, school record-setting toss of 163 feet, 4 inches in the hammer throw, finishing ninth overall while narrowly missing All-American honors.

“Deanna had a very strong performance for her first time competing at an outdoor national event,” he said. “She just failed getting into the top eight scorers, which is always bittersweet. She had a good enough throw early to get her into the finals and then improved in the finals with her school-record toss. Like Tina, we look for some big things out of Deanna in the years to come.”

Junior Jake Gillette (Niles, Mich.) was Goshen’s lone participant on the men’s slate, garnering a 19th-place finish in the marathon with a time of 2:39.07. That time was nearly seven minutes off his personal best clip.

Azusa Pacific University won the women’s team event, scoring 73 points overall. Cedarville University finished second (59 points), followed by Oklahoma Baptist University (55), Wayland Baptist University (54), Simon Fraser University (47), Fresno Pacific University (39), Olivet Nazarene University (37), Goshen (30), Point Loma Nazarene University (30) and Aquinas College (28).

– by Cory Furman, sports information director

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or jodihb@goshen.edu.

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Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit www.goshen.edu.

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