by Jordanne Perry
Senior Katie McKay and sophomore Kayla Leland competed in the 2016 NCAA Division III Indoor National Championships in Grinnell, Iowa, this past weekend where McKay’s sixth-place finish, 2:13.98, earned her the title of All-American.
Earlier this month, McKay had also been awarded the 2016 West Region Women’s Track Athlete of the Year by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
“We’ve been training for indoor nationals since January,” McKay said. “We were ready before we even got here.”
The 800-meter preliminary race on Friday was comprised of 17 competitors and two heats where the top eight times would advance to the final race on Saturday.
“I tried to help prepare them physically with workouts and mentally by talking about their own individual race to make them confident and believe in themselves,” head coach Toby Schwarz said.
McKay finished Friday’s preliminary race in fourth place with a time of 2:13.93, qualifying her to compete in the final 800-meter run seeded in eighth place.
Leland, whose running strategy is to try to get in front of the pack and take the lead, placed ninth in the preliminary heat with a time of 2:21.52.
“It was [Leland’s] first time running indoor track ever and I think she learned a lot and will hopefully take those lessons, apply them and have even more success in the future,” Schwarz said.
Leland did not advance to Saturday’s final race.
“It wasn’t my best time, but the experience of running at this level was incredible,” Leland said. “I would’ve hoped for a better outcome, but it was cool being at the venue of nationals and competing with the best of the DIII athletes.”
In the final race, McKay barely landed in sixth place, less than a 10th of a second behind fifth place.
“I couldn’t have done much better,” McKay said. “One of my strengths is that I try to lay it all on the track. I feel like I run every race hard so when I look back, I don’t think that I could’ve pushed myself any further.”
The Pirates’ outdoor season will continue this Thursday and Friday as they host the Buc Scoring/Combined Event Invite in the Pine Bowl starting at noon both days.