The Loras College women’s track and field team waited two years for the chance to defend its national title and proved it could wait an additional two hours at the end of the meet as the Duhawks endured one of the wildest conclusions at the NCAA Division III Track and Field National Championship on Saturday, making the moment of being crowned the Division III National Champion for the second-straight year even more special.
Thursday’s events saw Loras put themselves in a good position with qualifying preliminary marks and two All-Americans. Senior Carly Fischer (’21) was the first Duhawk to take a spot on the podium, posting a sixth-place finish in the discus with a throw of 42.81 meters to earn All-America honors in her first national championship appearance. Kassie Rosenbum (’21) capped off the first day’s events with a runner-up finish in the 10,000-meter run, earning All-America status with a time of 35:05.12. Elayna Bahl (’22) advanced to the finals in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:01.94 ran on a leg of the 4-by-400-meter relay team of Stevie Lambe (’22), Alyssa Pfadenhauer (’23) and Merryl Green (’23) to take the third-fastest time overall and in program history into Satuday’s finals (3:46.33). The 4-by-100-meter relay of Terrianna Black (’20), Pfadenhauer, Lambe and Kelly Kohlhof (’24) qualified for the finals as well after the quartet ran the fastest time in the field (46.72) and third-fastest relay in program history. Marion Edwards (’23) competed in the 200-meter dash preliminaries, running 24.73 and finishing just outside of qualifying.
Friday’s focus for the Duhawks was preliminaries and the team put in the work to set up a strong performance Saturday after Pfadenhauer won her heat of the 400-meter dash in 56.07 to take the third-fastest time into the finals. Black (11.83) and Edwards (11.88) both advanced in the 100-meter dash, running the second and third-best times in program history. By the end of the first two days, Loras had ten events set for the final day of competition.
The Duhawks asserted their dominance early on the final day as the 4-by-100-meter relay quartet of Black, Pfadenhauer, Lambe and Edwards defended their national champion title in the day’s first event, winning the race in record-setting fashion in 46.18. Pfadenhauer turned around less than an hour later and finished as the national runner-up in the 400-meter dash with another school record, running 54.33 to take one second off her personal best and claiming All-America honors.
“I was nervous for the 4-by-100-meter relay but I knew my teammates and I were ready and we finished as the champions,” said Pfadenhauer. “I told myself to take it one race at a time. I love the 400-meter dash—I’ve been running it since high school and to know I have put in so much work in the event and see it come together today means so much. For my first national experience, it’s for sure one I will always remember.”
Black and Edwards put up big-time performances for Loras in the 100-meter finals, with Black finishing second in 11.95 and Edwards placing sixth in 12.13 to both earn All-America honors and put Loras into the lead in the team race. Bahl also took her spot on the podium as an All-American and added to the Duhawks’ lead in the 400-meter hurdles, running 1:02.74 to finish sixth. Just as the race wrapped up, the forecasted inclement weather rolled through, putting the meet on hold for just under two hours. When action resumed, Rosenbum scored her second All-America award of the weekend in the 5,000-meter run, running 16:54.00 to place seventh in the race. The 4-by-400-meter relay of Lambe, Bahl, Edwards, and Pfadenhauer added another All-America honor to the Duhawks’ running total, claiming the runner-up honors in a time of 3:46.78 and putting Loras within three points of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse who had taken the team lead. With only the triple jump remaining and Black in the finals, the Duhawks needed a fourth-place finish or better to overtake the Eagles and claim the national title. The senior out of Milwaukee, Wis. did just that and posted a fourth-place All-America finish, her third honor of the day, with a leap of 11.85 meters.
“This team’s motto this season has been ‘unfinished business’ and I feel like we put in the work throughout the season and never let up,” said Black, who returned to the team for a fifth-year after the COVID-19 canceled season. “Winning conference really set the tone for us to come into nationals to do well. We are a young team but everyone knows their role and knows how much they mean to the team. With that, we know we have what it takes to keep bringing home titles.”
As the triple jump was winding down, a protest had started for the women’s 4-by-400-meter relay, showing a disqualification for the team from SUNY-Geneseo on the board which put the Duhawks as the national champion for the event. On a day that had already had one delay, the dispute lasted nearly two hours from the end of the race as the teams anxiously waited to hear who would take home the title. Even with the runner-up finish, Loras had tallied ten All-America honors, one individual national champion title, three runner-up finishes and 58 points, enough to edge La Crosse for the team title.
“My freshman year when we won, we had seniors on the team who didn’t have the chance to come back and race. This year, we are a new group and I never thought what we did in 2019 we could do again,” said Lambe, one of the returning All-Americans from the 2019 team. “The upperclassmen from that year and last year really shaped this team’s culture and helped us get to the point where we can win another national title. I’m really proud to be a part of this team.”
Michelle Budden (’21) and Grace Alley (’23) both made their national championship debuts on Saturday, competing in the hammer throw and triple jump, respectively. Budden was just outside of the finals, placing tenth with a toss of 50.37 meters and Alley placed 11th overall, jumping 11.30 meters.
SUNY-Geneseo finished behind the Eagles in third and Ithaca College was the final team on the podium, placing fourth.
The championship wraps up a 2021 outdoor season that saw the Duhawks win the American Rivers Conference (A-R-C) title for the first time since 1999 and take home all three major awards in Track Athlete, Field Athlete and Coaching Staff of the Year. Head Coach Matt Jones (’05) was also named the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Central Region Coach of the Year and Black was the Central Region Field Athlete of the Year in addition to 27 All-Region honorees.