Indoor track and field athletes miss out on nationals


Chad Phillips

Senior Tyler Randall, left, was one of the five Baker athletes who qualified for the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships. Photo by Chad Phillips.

Story by Nathalia Barr, Managing Editor

Five Baker track and field athletes qualified for the 2017 NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships. However, due to a missed deadline, those athletes will not be competing at nationals.

An official release from the Baker University Athletic Department said, “Our track and field coaches failed to declare our indoor national qualifiers within the designated timeline.”

Juniors Caitlin Apollo and Brenda McCollum are race walkers for the Wildcats who both qualified for nationals at their first meet of the season. Both Apollo and McCollum then bettered their qualifying standards at the Heart of America Athletic Conference meet.

After all the indoor meets had concluded, coaches were supposed to register their qualified athletes for the national meet online.

“Our coaches told us they got their signals crossed and that they both thought the other person was doing it, but no one did,” McCollum said. “Then they didn’t tell us until last Friday because they tried to get it appealed through the NAIA.”

The NAIA denied the appeal.

McCollum and Apollo have both competed at nationals the past two years, but they still believe they are missing out on an important experience.

“It’s hard to have a race with that kind of competition, so missing out on that kind of competition and the opportunity to have that fast of a race is really upsetting,” Apollo said.

McCollum added that because of the smaller number of race walkers compared to other events, “getting all the best (race walkers) in one spot is extremely awesome.”

The two race walkers also said they had hoped to have the opportunity to do even better at the national meet this year.

“I was ranked eighth and (Apollo) was 10th, and the top eight get All-American honors,” McCollum said. “The times were so close, too, so there was a good chance (Apollo) could have moved up into the top eight.”

The three other BU athletes who had qualified for the national meet were seniors Tyler Randall and Kendal Holloman and junior Cory Peoples.

As for the upcoming outdoor season, Apollo and McCollum said they are just trying to remain motivated.

“Conference or nationals is always everyone’s end goal, so to not be able to compete is just hard,” McCollum said. “It definitely puts a wider gap between the athletes and the coaches, but I know a lot of people are just trying to stay positive.”

The Baker University Athletic Department released the following official statement from Director of Athletics Theresa Yetmar:

“Our track and field coaches failed to declare our indoor national qualifiers within the designated timeline. As such, our student-athletes will not be allowed to compete in this year’s national championship meet.

We are proud of our student-athletes who worked tirelessly this indoor season to achieve marks that designated them as national qualifiers. We constantly strive for excellence, and deeply regret that these student-athletes will be denied the opportunity for further success.

We have met with all five of our national qualifiers to express our sincerest apologies. However, we know that there is no substitute for competing in a national championship. My office will be working closely with our track and field coaches to ensure that this mistake never happens again.”