DePauw women’s track finishes first at Indiana Division III Championship

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Another week, another school record broken by the DePauw Tigers women’s track and field team.
The Tigers finished in first place at the Indiana Division III Track and Field Championships, helped by four individual first place finishes. 
“The past few weeks, we’ve placed an emphasis on this meet,” sophomore Heather O’Brien said. “We had the goal of first place, and we were able to do that. People were able to score points in all different areas, and it shows our team’s depth.” 
The Tigers won with points to spare, finishing with 197 points. The runner up was Hanover College, who finished with 158.5 points.
DePauw senior Jillian Balser continued her trend this season of breaking her own pole vault record, this time clearing 11-00.25. Balser won the event, followed by Manchester University’s Andrea Keller, who cleared 9-05.75. Balser has constantly proven to be a standout athlete amidst her competition, and is only improving in her last year with the Tigers. In early February, Balser broke her own record by clearing 10-6. 
Balser said she has been focusing on her technique.
“Pole vaulting is a very technical event, and while it is important to not over-think every element of each jump, maintaining body awareness is helpful when making form adjustments,” Balser said. “I like to focus on one or two goals or corrections for each jump. That way I set a concrete, tangible goal each time I step on the runway.”
At the NCAC Indoor Championships in March, Balser earned a second place finish, clearing 11-1.75, again breaking her record. Now, with only two invitationals left before the NCAC Heptathlon and Track Field Championships get under way, Balser is again turning heads for her talents. 
The senior was joined by three more Tigers on the Indiana Division III Championship’s podium. Freshman runner Tiernan Shank got first place in the 400 meters, finishing with a time of 1:00.45. 
“I was really excited, it was my best time thus far this season,” Shank said. “It was windy on the back stretch, so I knew I had to get out really fast on the 200. ” 
Along with her individual hard work, Shank credited the team’s upperclassmen for leading her in her first year with the program. 
“I run mid-distance, and so does Nicole [Inman],” Shank said. “She was really helpful with my times and is a great person to have around. Balser is always there for you, she has a whole book of inspiration that helps prepare us for meets.”
 Inman also did well this past weekend, finishing second in the 400-meter race. 
O’Brien had the best time in the 10,000 meter event, running it in 39:52.47. Senior Ashley Guevara also had a first place finish, completing the 3,000 -meter steeplechase in 11:57.87.    
O’Brien has proven herself a threat in long-distance running. At this past April’s DePauw Invitational, O’Brien won the 5,000 meter race in 18:00.31. At the Indiana Championships this past weekend, O’Brien was tasked with running twice that amount. 
“Doing the 10,000 meter wasn’t my favorite race, but it takes a lot of mental health,” O’Brien said. “I think that’s one thing distance runners can take pride in.”
The team’s first place finish this past weekend is the fourth first place finish out of eight ranked invitationals at this point in the season. The team ranked the best at the Tiger Small College Invitational, the first DePauw Invitational of the year, the Fred Wilt Invitational, and most recently, this past weekend’s Indiana Division III Track and Field Championships. 
Looking towards the end of the season the team looks to continue to shine.
“I think one of the big things we can improve on is our confidence,” O’Brien said. “Getting first place [this past weekend] definitely helped. When things get competitive, we will need confidence to know we can be right there with them.”
The team has only the Rose-Hulman Twilight and the Bellarmine Classic Invitationals ahead before the NCAC Heptathlon begins on April 26.