BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Saturday at the 2017 NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships brought a parade of outstanding performances by all three Chadron State College student-athletes who traveled to Alabama, and the Grand Marshall was Mel Herl.
Herl went into the meet as one of the favorites in the women's weight throw, and was disappointed to finish third on Friday after failing to hit 70 feet.
She had thrown her personal best of 21.89 meters (71' 10") in early December and saw that mark hold as the best in Division II for most of the season. Herl was also arguably the most consistent among the top throwers in the land; she went past 70 feet with her marks in seven of nine meets during the season.
In contrast, Herl's shot put, while also a strength, had not been as dominant. She had regularly thrown at a provisional qualifying level above 44 feet, however not until she landed a 50-foot throw at her last qualifying meet, the RMAC championships, was she absolutely certain she would even be among the shot put contestants at nationals.
Even after qualifying for NCAAs, she stood without an auto mark, looking up at four others in the championship field who had landed one.
"I saw my opportunity to go out and get points for my team," said Herl, "so I just went out with reckless abandonment and got those points to make up for some of the points I lost in the weight throw."
Herl's first attempt in the shot put final was much like those from earlier in the season – nationally competitive, but not nationally dominant. She sat seventh after one round of tosses.
With her second, however, she made herself known, jumping to second in the competition with a new personal record of 15.36 (50' 4.75"). The new leader, Jasmine Smith of Pittsburg State, landed 15.54 meters on her second throw.
What followed was remarkable. Herl's third attempt sailed more than a foot farther than her second, giving her the lead at 15.63 meters headed into the three-round finals. Several top entrants such as top-ranked Megan Tomei of Ashland, and fifth-ranked Michaela Dendinger of Wayne State, were not as fortunate and failed to advance.
The remaining tosses fell short of Herl's. As an encore, with the national title already locked down, her final throw of the meet increased her lead by nearly six inches to finish with a winning mark of 15.77 (51' 9"), which is the third-best winning throw in Division II all season.
"Training had been going so well," added Herl, "and I had potential to PR today. I knew I had to just turn it on once I got into finals. I wanted 16 [meters] today and I knew I was capable of that. It was a good tone-setter, heading into outdoors."
Herl becomes the first CSC thrower to capture a national crown.
Just as Herl was bearing down on her title in the shot put, the 60-meter track was the setting for personal triumphs by CSC track stars Tessa Gorsuch and Stachia Reuwsaat. Each runner took third place in their events. For Gorsuch, it was the 60 meter hurdles, where she entered with the fifth-best time in the finals and beat her PR from prior to the meet by running 8.49 seconds. Reuwsaat lived up to expectations clocking 7.47 seconds in the 60-meter dash and also took bronze.
Despite entering only three individuals into the NCAA championships, the Chadron State women claimed the program's first-ever team trophy as a result of finishing third in the meet with 38 points. The two first-place finishes were worth 10 points, and the three third-place showings garnered six points apiece.
The women of RMAC rival Adams State University earned their program's third NCAA DII indoor championship with 47 points, while Grand Valley State University edged CSC out for runner-up status by a single point after taking second in the final event contested, the 4x400 meter relay.
Tiffin University captured the men's title.
—Kaleb Center, Sports Information Director
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