Two Tigers make history at a national meet

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Samuel Voelz, Freshman.

Five days after graduating Magna Cum Laude from DePauw University, Polo Burguete ‘18  should have been looking forward to a relaxing summer. Instead, he toed the line at Roger Harring Stadium in La Crosse, Wisconsin to compete against the nation’s top division-three athletes in what is considered one of the toughest events track and field has to offer.

Two weeks prior, Burguete had qualified for the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase—a distance event in which runners must clear a total of twenty-eight barriers and seven water jumps throughout the race. The difficulty with steeple lies in the combination of physical endurance and intense focus. Racing under the lights that night at North Central College’s Dr. Keeler Invitational, Burguete improved his personal best by 16 seconds and set a new school record of 9:04.55.

Burguete said this performance “was the result of the experience I had racing and training at the collegiate level for three years” and that “the real game changer was confidence: I believed in myself and my ability to be a tough and smart racer.”

Burguete describes steeplechase as “an event that requires a lot of strength and coordination since you are jumping over five barriers per lap, all the while trying to maintain your cadence and speed . . . you can’t zone out in the steeplechase.”

Upon arriving at the national meet, Burguete remembers feeling nervous. “It was pretty intimidating being surrounded by the top track athletes in the country and to overcome those emotions I had to believe that I belonged. I told myself that like everyone else there I had earned my place and that my task was simple: don’t think, execute,” he said.  Burguete left nothing to chance on the first day of competition and secured his place in the steeplechase finals by winning the prelims in 9:18.46.

Two days later, Burguete became an all-American when he finished second-place with a time of 9:08.37. It was the highest finish ever in a running event at the national championships by any DePauw male.

Burguete plans to continue running competitively after college. He’s found a new coach and hopes to have “the opportunity to train and race for a new team or club in the coming months.”

When asked about advice he would give future generations of DePauw runners Burguete kept it simple: “cash out or burn out.”

First-year Samuel Voelz also made history at the national championships when he became the first DePauw athlete to secure all-American honors in the 800-meter run after finishing fourth in 1:51.22. One day earlier, Voelz broke his own school record and set a new personal best of 1:50.8 during the 800-meter prelim to qualify for finals.  For Voelz, more was at stake during the national meet than becoming an all-American. Voelz said, “My coaches in high school instilled the mindset in me that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind too. My ultimate goal was to run at Notre Dame.”

With his exceptional performance at the national championships and a new personal best, Voelz achieved his goal by being given the opportunity to compete at the division-one level for Notre Dame. While Sam enjoyed being “able to do much more than just school and sports” as a student-athlete at DePauw, he is excited to continue his athletic and academic career as a Fighting Irish this fall.

Assistant coach Stu Newstat says, Voelz and Burguete’s “success at the national meet was a culmination of their talent and hard work. As the year progressed, we could tell something special was going to happen.”  

Alongside head coach Kori Stoffregen and assistant coach Megan Mannering, Newstat worked with the two athletes during the spring season saying, “You watch them get better every day and to see it all come together at the highest level is amazing. The guys back home see their friends at the national meet and it fires them up so it’s just a great overall experience for the program.” DePauw track and field returns to action this winter.