As she crossed the finish line for the final time in her career, senior McKayla Fricker broke through the wire, pointed to the sky and became a national champion.
“It means more than I can explain,” Fricker said. “I am so thankful. God is so good.”
Fricker completed the 800-meter race one last time with a time of 2:06.18, good enough for first place, her first national title and SPU’s fourth title in five years.
“As I came to the last 10 meters I thought to myself, ‘Wow. I am really about to win,’ ” Fricker said.
The NCAA Division-II Outdoor Track & Field National Championships took place in Allendale, Mich., and were held May 22-24.
Fricker qualified for the 800 final as the top seed on Friday after she ran a 2 minute, 7.52 second preliminary race, which put her ahead of every other runner in each of the three heats, and in a great position to do well in the final on Saturday.
“[I wanted to] hit pace [in the prelims] for the first 400,” Fricker said. “By doing that, I was able to set myself to win the heat by passing everyone in the last 200. I tried backing off the last 100 when I realized no one was close to me to try to conserve some energy.”
However, coming into the national meet, Fricker was not the overall favorite. The No. 1 seed coming into the meet was Shawnee Carnett from Concord University, who narrowly beat Fricker in the indoor national championships, running only forty-nine-hundredths of a second faster than Fricker.
However, Fricker put that all behind her as she stepped onto the track for the final time of her collegiate career.
She took the lead early in the second lap and never looked back, easily cruising down the straightaway all the way to the finish line.
“Coming around the last curve, I could see my main competitors’ shadows behind me,” Fricker said. “And I surged even faster.”
Fricker wasn’t the only member of the SPU women’s track team in attendance at the national meet. SPU also had other competitors in the national meet, although without as much success. The Falcons had one other runner in the 800, sophomore Lynelle Decker. Decker ran in the same prelim as Fricker, except she ran it in 2:10.82. This was the second best time in her career, and it was good enough for 14th overall, but not good enough to make the final.
Seattle Pacific also sent their 4×400 relay team, hoping to make it to the final race. The team consisted of senior Kishia Mitchell, one of SPU’s more decorated tracksters, juniors Jasmine Johnson and Tasia Baldwin, and senior BryAnne Wochnick.
The team failed to qualify for the finals after getting 12th overall with a time of 3:46.30. But that doesn’t mean their attendance didn’t go unnoticed.
“[Having other SPU athletes there] just shows that our program will always have national competitors,” Fricker said. “We are that good of a program. We work hard, we have great coaches, and we stay focused with what we want to accomplish.”
Even though the other competitors didn’t make it to the finals, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t accomplish what they set out to do.
“I am proud of everyone,” Fricker said. “We accomplished our goal to make it in the 4×4; we didn’t make finals but they all put in everything they had and did their best. Lynelle did a great job and I have no doubt that the next year she will have an awesome year.”
For Fricker, this title was especially special, being someone who has come from a career filled with injuries and some disappointing seasons.
“As I look back at my last four years and realize that my determination gave me the ability to persevere through the challenges I faced. I am excited for what’s to come in my future,” Fricker said.
As she crosses the finish line of her collegiate career, Fricker can only look back on the SPU program and hope the best for the program that gave her so much.
“I hope that the team will always persevere through their challenges,” Fricker said. “The SPU track team is about to get real good — I can tell.”