Wildcats sprint to nationals: Track and field athletes look to end season on a high note

Junior Armando Tafoya qualified for nationals in the hammer throw after finishing 19th in the country.

McKenzie Lakey

Junior Armando Tafoya qualified for nationals in the hammer throw after finishing 19th in the country.

Samuel Beaumonte, Staff Reporter

Four Wildcat student-athletes compete in Bradenton, Florida today in search All-American performances at nationals.

These four athletes get their shot at glory after helping lead Central Washington University to second-place and fourth-place finishes on the women’s and men’s sides of the GNAC Conference Championship Meet.

“I’m more excited than I was last year, and I think we all have similar attitudes about going and representing Central, but it’s important for us all to enjoy the experience, since we worked so hard to get here,” said senior long distance runner Erin Chinchar.

In addition to Chinchar, two other athlete’s going to nationals are returners who have experienced national competition before.

“This is my fifth time going to nationals and it’s been a blessing,” said senior high jumper Taylor Fettig. “I’m really looking forward to going again. This year I’ve grown mentally and allowed myself to visualize the high heights that I can reach.”

Senior long distance runner Dani Eggleston came dangerously close to missing out on her opportunity.

“It felt really good to get to nationals because I had overtrained the week before,” Eggleston said. “I was really scared going into [the] GNAC [meet.] The week before, I had tried to run at my normal times, and I couldn’t make it. At the Western [meet,] I ran the worst 5k I’ve ever ran before.”

To combat her injuries, athletic trainers helped Eggleston rehab quickly.

“[Last] Tuesday I felt that fatigued feeling again, but now that I know the feeling, I know when to back off,” Eggleston said. “My body just wasn’t recovering like it should have been. I wasn’t even going to run the 5k, but the girls were close to winning, and we got second place by five points. That was heartbreaking.”

Sudden injuries aren’t too uncommon for the sport, and Fettig shared similar concerns as Eggleston at the previous year’s GNAC championships.

“Last year wasn’t the best experience for me, I had a few injuries but I don’t want to make any excuses for how it went,” Fettig said.

Fettig battled a heel injury during last year’s conference championship meet. Her health this year hasn’t been as much of an issue.

“My trainer Sebastian [Kurtz] has been a blessing this year and helped me recover quickly,” Fettig said. “Now I feel great going into nationals.”

In addition to physical injuries, breaks from competition and practices are common issues for student-athletes who have a busy schedule during their competitive season. Those breaks in training can be just as worrisome when it comes to GNAC and national level performance.

“It was really exciting for me to make it to nationals since I took winter off,” Chinchar said. “I went over to the Westside to student-teach, and I had planned to train, but I got busy, so I was bummed when I thought I wouldn’t make it to nationals.”

While athletic trainers are helpful for injuries, when it comes to absences and almost a full-quarter of missed practices, it’s up to the coaches to try and balance everything out.

“Everyday when I was going to practice, I had my teammates and coach pushing me to get there,” Chinchar said. “I’ve been with [Coach Kevin Adkisson] for four years. He really knows what’s best for all of the athletes and how to train them individually.”

Most of CWU’s student-athletes have experience at nationals, but junior Armando Tafoya is preparing for his first-shot at the competition. He qualified for nationals halfway through the season in the hammer throw.

“It’s kind of a blessing and a curse making it so early, especially if you don’t improve later in the season,” Tafoya said. “I’ve been close before, but this was my first time making it.  I’m going in at 19th place, and I’m going to go in and try to beat the guy above me, and the guy after that and try to get as far as I can. It’s something I’ve always been wanting to do.”