Calvin - Whittle Claims All-America Berth in 1,500 Meters at NCAA III Outdoor Track & Field Championships

Calvin - Whittle Claims All-America Berth in 1,500 Meters at NCAA III Outdoor Track & Field Championships

Provided by Calvin

LA CROSSE, WISC. - The Calvin men’s and women’s track and field teams closed out competition at the NCAA III Championships with one additional NCAA All-America performance as senior Greg Whittle took fifth in the 1,500 meters. The Knights had four other runners compete on Saturday but the remaining four were unable to score.

In the 1,500 meters, Whittle (Galesburg, IL/Galesburg HS) took fifth with a career-best time of 3:49.48. Whittle’s time is also the second-fastest in Calvin track and field history, surpassed only by the 3:48.13 run by Dave Sydow in 1992.

The All-America berth is the third of Whittle’s track and field career and his second in the 1,500 meters. Whittle took fourth in the 1,500 meters at the 2011 NCAA III Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He was also the national runner-up in the mile run at the 2011 NCAA III Indoor Track and Field Championships. He is the third individual in Calvin men’s track and field history to be a two-time NCAA III All-American in the 1,500 meters, joining Sydow (1990, 1991 and 1992) and Lee Doherty (1997 and 1999).

Whittle gradually moved forward in the pack throughout the race. He moved into All-America position in the final lap and blew by three runners in the final 60 meters to finish fifth.

“Greg ran a phenomenal race,” said Calvin distance coach Brian Diemer. “The pace was extremely quick which made it doubly important to maintain good position in the pack. Greg did a great job of that and also saved enough energy over the final 60 meters to crank it up a couple of gears. He has had a great career at Calvin and it was thrilling to see him finish the way he did.”

Earlier in the day, senior Alyssa Penning (Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Christian HS) competed in the women’s 3,000 meter steeplechase finals for the third straight year. An NCAA All-American in the event the year before, Penning was unable to repeat the feat this time around as she placed 12th in a time of 11:00.19.

“Alyssa did not have her best race but those kind of things happen sometimes at a national meet,” said Diemer. “Nevertheless, she has had a very good career at Calvin, particularly in the steeplechase.”

In the women’s 5,000 meters, junior Nicole Michmerhuizen (Holland/Holland Christian HS) sought an All-America berth two days after winning the national title in the 10,000 meter run. A top-eight finish was not to be however as she placed 12th in a time of 17:09.15 despite leading the race for the first eight laps. The race was won by Christy Cazzola of Wisconsin-Oshkosh who took first in a time of 16:31.17, pulling off a spectacular afternoon as she also took first place in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters.

“The distance field this year was absolutely loaded,” said Diemer. “Nicole got off to a good steady pace and was on track for a top-eight finish but the pack behind her was feeding off her and when that pack pounced, it was tough for her to fight back. I am very proud of Nicole. She went for it today less than 48 hours after running a very gutsy 10,000. It is not easy to come back from a race like that but Nicole gave it her best effort. She has had an amazing year and she has bright things ahead of her.”

In the men’s 5,000 meters, senior Matt Vander Roest (Ann Arbor/Ann Arbor Huron HS) took 17th (14:50.93) while junior Sam Kerk (Hartland, Wisc/Lake Country Lutheran HS) was 20th (15:28.51).

“Matt ran a very smart race but once again the field of runners was very talented,” said Diemer. “He stayed in the front pack of eight for as long as he could. He just ran out of gas. Matt has had a terrific career at Calvin and has been a big part of our success the last four years.”

Diemer also had words of praise for Kerk. “Sam may not have run the way he would have liked today but he took a big step forward for our us this spring. He qualified for nationals in two events and really improved his speed and stamina. He will be one of the guys that we will look to for leadership when the cross country season rolls around in the fall.”

Calvin finished tied for 19th in the final men’s team standings with 11 points while host Wisconsin-La Crosse took the team title with 66 points. On the women’s side, Calvin finished tied for 26th with 10 points. Wartburg won the women’s team title with 46 points.