LEWISTON - Though only one Warrior got a taste of the outdoor season, Lewis-Clark State Track and Field saw many successes in 2020. Four LC State student-athletes captured All-American honors at NAIA Indoor Track and Field Nationals, one another had already solidified his spot at the outdoor championships.
Distance athletes Cole Olsen, Clayton VanDyke and Emily Adams kept their momentum going from cross country season, and pole vaulter Madi Carson dazzled at nationals for the second straight year. Two relays also made their way to the national meet to gain experience.
“The season had some mixed feelings,” Head Coach Mike Collins said. “It was great to see how well we did at indoors. Coming home with four All-Americans is nothing to hang your head about, but we put most of our emphasis on the outdoor season. Seeing a lot of kids work hard all year long with fundraising, training, community service then literally be on the verge of leaving for our first outdoor meet is pretty disappointing, especially those kids that got nothing for the entire year.
“However, I know they are resilient and we will come back even stronger for next year,” Collins continued. “Importantly, it will help them to know that they need to take advantage of every opportunity they get. With that in mind, the season will have some silver linings that we will work off of, include the gold in the All-American medals that we earned at indoors.”
Olsen waited no time getting back to the national stage, qualifying in the 3000-meter at the first track meet of the season, the Vandal Open. He placed second in the event as the only NAIA runner in the pack with at time of 8:36.92. Adams was just shy of a qualifying mark in the 3000m and clocked a personal-best time of 10:39.37. Both were voted the Frontier Conference Track Athletes of the Week.
“No surprise on Cole and his season starting off so quickly,” Collins explained. “He finished the cross country season in great shape and then took a little bit of down time, but no doubt he worked hard to maintain his fitness level. Starting the season as one of the top runners in the nation should almost be expected. If it hadn’t been for a bad cold the week of indoor nationals, I think he was in a good position to win a national title.”
LC State made a splash at the Idaho Open with four qualifying marks. Olsen added an event to his 2020 resume with a win in the 5000m. He bested the second-place finisher by 20 seconds with his time of 14:54. VanDyke pulled double duty, clinching spots in both the mile (4:18.57) and the 800m (1:54.56). Carson marked her return to nationals when she hit a mark of 3.55m in the pole vault. Both Carson and VanDyke were rewarded with conference awards.
“It is pretty challenging to see our progress in a season that is so short,” Collins said. “We only compete in four competitions, which is less than half of what we are allowed to, so getting a feel off of such limited information is tough. It does allow us to stay fresh and hungry, so going into some of the meets later in the indoor season often produces good results.”
Three records fell at the Nike Boise Indoor-Jackson’s Invite. The men’s 4x800m relay, featuring the team of Olsen, Josh Lay, Dillon Dawson and Vandyke, set a new standard with a time of 7:55.29. VanDyke also found success in the 800m, setting a school record and improving upon his national-qualifying time with a time of 1:53.97.
Bryan Carter joined in on the record-setting action with a time of 50.15 in the 400m dash. Olsen improved his 3000m time, this time running the event in 8:31.45. Adams hit the qualifying mark in the 3000m run with a career-best 10:27.55, more than 10 seconds faster than her previous best. Both Adams and VanDyke earned weekly honors from the Frontier Conference.
The Boise State Challenge saw two Warriors relays punch their tickets to nationals. On day one, the men’s distance medley relay team of Dawson, Carter, Cameron Preston and VanDyke won the event with a time of 10:16.93. The women’s 4x400m relay team of Karlie Smith, McKinley Litton, Ashley Britt and Rebekka Kalmbach punched their ticket with a time of 3:59.62.
“As mentioned, we don’t have a lot of opportunities to hit qualifying marks and in track and field you are trying to peak,” Collins explained. “So often, early in the season the athletes aren’t being trained to compete at their best at that point in time. We are trying to build so that we are competing at our best when it matters the most; nationals. You take your chances at times with this when it comes to injury and illness, but most of the time we fully expect to be performing well later.”
Olsen improved his time in the 5000m with a career-best 14:51.35 to win the event. VanDyke improved his time in the 800m and updated the school record with a time of 1:53.65.
After the conclusion of the regular season, Olsen was named the USTFCCCA West Region Track Athlete of the Year.
“Cole is a big picture thinker,” Collins said. “I couldn’t ask for a better representative of an all-around quality student-athlete that is committed to his sport, his education and his teammates. He has always done things right and we are looking forward to what is yet to come.”
The Warrior relay teams opened competition for LC State at indoor nationals. Though neither made the finals, both finished higher than their original seeding. The women’s 4x400m relay team was seeded 23rd, last in the group, but finished 14th overall with a time of 3:57.31. The men’s DMR was also seeded last in the event, but finished 14th overall.
“The relay’s had some pretty big hills to climb if they wanted to make the finals, but I felt the kids ran well despite the challenges that were in front of them,” Collins recalled. “Specifically, the DMR had a totally different lineup than the qualifying team with a couple of guys running legs they weren’t used to. I think if Cameron had not gotten tripped up in the first leg they would have been in a better position to stay competitive during the race, but that is racing.”
Day two of the meet was a busy one with four Warriors in action. Carson produced a strong showing the pole vault for the second year in a row, earning All-American status with a sixth-place finish. She tied her career-best and school record with a height of 3.77m.
“Pole vault is a sketchy partner at times. Madi vaulted really well as can be attested by tying her personal best, but some other girls were having career days,” Collins said. “I think she is on the verge of hitting the 13 to 14 foot range, and another week or two might have seen this occurring. Fortunately, we have her for another year and I think her confidence is high now that she has some time in on a bigger pole that will undoubtedly help her to reach new heights.”
All three Warriors in the prelims qualified for the finals. VanDyke improved his school-record time in the 800m (1:53.11) and was the top qualifier coming out of the prelims. Olsen jumped out to an early lead in the 3000m and finished second overall with a time of 8:44.73. Adams ran a career-best 10:10.61 in the 3000m to head into the finals at the fifth seed, having started the event as the last seed.
“The main point of the prelims is to get to the finals, which all three did,” Collins recalled. “Cole and Clayton followed through, meeting all expectations and I think both guys had great shots at winning. Cole has already been mentioned, but I think a slight adjustment in strategy in the final for Clayton and he comes home with a win. Emily was probably a big surprise to many. She was not seeded high, has faced some pretty significant health challenges, so figuring where she might finish was a guessing game. She is a very determined racer and she raced as smartly and proactively as you can when it came to making decisions, which paid off in both the prelims and the finals. I could not be happier for her.”
LC State closed the final day of nationals with three more All-American finishes. VanDyke maintained a spot in the lead pack of the 800m before pushing ahead to finish as the National Runner-Up (1:54.45).
Adams made a statement in the 3000m and finished third overall. She made her move late to pass the main pack and cross the finish line in 10:16.35.
Olsen earned a sixth-place finish in the 3000m with a time of 8:31.81 to wrap up the meet for LC State.
While the nation was focused on indoor nationals, Connor Turpin made his move to punch his ticket to outdoor nationals. The sophomore won the Snake River Half Marathon and hit a qualifying time to earn his spot in the national marathon (1:12.28). Unfortunately, due to the pandemic the rest of the season, including nationals, was canceled.
“It’s disappointing for all the kids with outdoor being cancelled,” Collins said, “especially for those that did not compete in indoors. But I know they are tough, we are working hard, they are working hard and we will be ready to go next year.”