Setting the bar: Foresters preparing for Track & Field

Three Foresters earn bids to compete at the NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships early in the season.

CHicks-CMYKWhile his peers celebrated the snow day earlier this month, junior Jake Nash could be found inside the PLEX fieldhouse. The 6’ 2” jumper crouches, rocking back and forth, springing backwards on the third count to successfully clear the high jump bar.

After checking if the coast is clear, teammate and roommate sophomore Brooks Gerke completes a pole vault run, propelling himself over the neon-orange marker rope. Afterwards, he walks over to his coach and father, Dale Gerke, to watch the instant replay on his father’s phone and hear his critiques.

Both Nash and Gerke will be Foresters to watch this coming track season as both have already made headlines. Gerke claimed third in the heptathlon at Purdue University, finishing with 4,468 points while resetting his own school record. Earlier this season, he posted a second place finish Jan. 24 at the University of Findlay Heptathlon, which included notching first place marks in long jump, shot put, and pole vault. Gerke raced to the seventh fastest time in school history in the 60 meter hurdles as well. He holds the school indoor pole vault record as well.

Gerke said that there definitely is a goal this year in mind as he hopes to qualify for nationals in the pole vault. He has already achieved the goal of qualifying for nationals for the heptathlon event.

“After last year and coming into this year, it feels a lot more natural and comfortable,” Gerke said. “Last year was more of an experimentation type thing to see it [the decathlon] would be worth my while. This year there’s definitely a goal to reach nationals and compete well.”

Meanwhile, many expect Nash to repeat last season’s success as he qualified for the NAIA Indoor National Championships with a leap of 6-09.75. Reminiscent of last year’s All-American honors in high jump last year, the fifth-best high jumper in the nation broke his own school record in high jump, jumping 6-10.25 at the Don & Riley Zimmer Classic Jan. 30 at Trine University. Nash holds the school record for triple jump as well.

Nash says that he is the type of person that always looks for improvement, ready to put in the long hours to reap the benefits.

“I really had no expectations going into last year, so I feel like that helped in some aspects,” Nash said. “I feel like track is a journey. Track meets are a lot like my spiritual journey– you are going to have ups and downs. Some meets you’ll do better than others, but it’s about how you react to how well you do.”

The junior hopes to break 7’ in the high jump during the spring season.

Meanwhile, Christiana Hicks has paced the women in both sprints and the triple jump. The Feb. 9 Crossroads Field Athlete of the week shattered the previous school record in triple jump, besting her previous attempts by almost two feet she leaped to a 37-00.50 record Feb. 7, earning the right to attend the NAIA Indoor National Championships. In her most recent outing at the Defiance Open Feb. 13, Hicks claimed the 200 crown in 26.70 to land her in the second place spot in school record books.

The Defiance Open treated the HU women kindly as junior Shana Christian claimed a first place finish in the 400 meters while juniors Hannah Moore and Krista Wood and senior Gretchen Pyper finished consecutively to clinch the second, third, and fourth spots in the 3,000 meters.

The track team has suffered the loss of several athletes not returning this season as well as the loss of expected recruits. Hicks said the team needs to refocus its mentality in order to combat the set back.

“Everyone just needs to focus on their mentality,” Hicks said. “You shouldn’t be worrying about getting to the finals– you should be worrying about where you’re going to place. Just get out there and try to win.”

The track team will compete at the DePauw University Indoor Classic Feb. 21 with the NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships opening March 5.

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