Calvin Men's Track and Field Captures First MIAA Indoor Track and Field Title

Calvin Men's Track and Field Captures First MIAA Indoor Track and Field Title

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A year after missing an MIAA Indoor Track and Field title by a scant 4.5 points, the Calvin men's track and field team rose up and secured its first conference indoor crown.

Competing in its own Huizenga Tennis and Track Center, the Knights posted a team score of 195 points, finishing 31.5 points ahead of defending (indoor) champion Trine University.

Calvin clinched the championship with a dramatic 1-2-3-4 finish in the men's 3,000 meter run - the second-to-the-last event left in the meet. Heading into the race, Calvin held a half-point lead over Trine in the team standings but senior Zac Nowicki (Comstock Park, Mich./Calvin Christian HS) delivered a victory with a time of 8:53.23. All running in their second distance event of the day, senior Nathan Van Haitsma (Olympia, Wash.) junior Mark DeJong (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian HS) and freshman Tyler Johnson (Springfield, Il./Pleasant Plains HS) dug down and found another gear to give the Knights the top four spots. Van Haitsma came in second with a time of 8:57.10 while DeJong was third (8:57.49) and Johnson fourth (8:57.99).

The championship was capped off by Calvin's 4x400 meter relay team as the quartet of junior Noah Buteyn (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian HS), sophomore James Jeninga (Brookfield, Wisc./Milwaukee Lutheran HS), sophomore Luke Peterson (Holland, Mich./Holland Christian HS) and junior Ethan Valentine (Mason, Oh./William Mason HS) took first place in a meet and track-record time of 3:22.54.

"It really was a team performance that got the job done," said Calvin head track and field coach Bret Otte. "We went up against great competition and great teams. We had to go out and earn this championship. Nothing was given to us so knowing that we competed hard, put in the word and got the job done feels very satisfying."

Valentine turned in the most electrifying performance of the meet, winning the 400 meter dash for the second straight year but doing so in a meet and track-record time of 48.13. The time by Valentine currently ranks as the fastest time in NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field this year. Buteyn also scored in the 400, placing sixth in a time of 51.12.

Valentine was one of six individual champions for the Calvin on Saturday. Sophomore Brendan Van Houten (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian HS) was the first winner for the Knights, claiming an upset win in the shot put with a career-best throw of 46-3 1/4. Van Houten entered the shot put competition seeded sixth but came up big when the Knights needed it most.

"I think Brendan's early win really got the momentum rolling for our team," said Otte. "The word started traveling around the track - 'did you hear? Brendan won the shot put!' - and that just got every pumped. It was an pivotal early moment for our team."

While not seeded in the top eight heading into the shot put as well, freshman Jayvin Wolfe (Middleton, Mich./Fulton HS) took sixth with a career-best throw of 43-3.

In the 5,000 meters, Calvin went 1-2-4-6 in impression fashion with senior Jordan Kramer (Pewaukwee, Wisc./Lake Country Lutheran HS) winning in an MIAA and track-record time of 14:37.08. Junior Andrew Philipose (Mount Prospect, Il./John Hersey HS) was second in 14:39.16, senior Andrew Rylaarsdam fourth (15:11.84) and sophomore Jamison Koeman (Whitinsville, Mass./Whitinsville Christian HS) sixth (15:22.32). The time by Kramer ranks 11th nationally while the time by Philipose ranks 13th.

In the mile run, DeJong led a 1-2-3 Calvin charge as he took first in a time of 4:25.38 while Johnson was a close second ( 4:25.72) and Van Haitsma a close third (4:25.88).

Freshman Jonathan Walt (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian HS) also had a huge day, winning the pole vault with a season-best mark of 14-9.  He was part of a 1-5-6 Calvin finish in the event with junior Jacob Stout (Escondido, Ca./Escondido Calvin Christian HS) taking fifth (13-11 1/4) and junior Devin Schweigert (Whitehall, Mich./Whitehall HS) taking sixth (12-5 1/2).

Calvin also picked up key points in the jumps. In the long jump, senior Reitsma Mpindi (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian HS) made his Calvin track and field debut by taking second with a leap of 22-2. Freshman Nathan Van Wyhe (Frankfort, Il./Lincoln-Way East HS) was seventh (20-10 1/4).

In the triple jump, sophomore Lee Barents (Redlands, Ca./Arrowhead Christian HS) was second (43-6) while senior Jeiel Burrrell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian HS) was third (42-11 1/2). Burrell was later fifth in the high jump (6-1 1/2) and Van Wyhe tied for seventh (5-11 1/2).

Van Houten also scored in the weight throw, placing sixth (44-2 1/2). In the 60 meter hurdles, Calvin scored three times with junior Chase Rohrer (Ludington, Mich./Ludington HS) fifth (8.66), sophomore Alex Williams (Mequon, Wisc./Homestead HS) sixth (8.93) and junior Jeremiah Stout (Escondido, Ca./Escondido Calvin Christian HS) eighth (8.95).

Calvin also placed three individuals in the top eight of the 800 meters with Jeninga leading the way with a second place time of 1:56.34. Peterson was fifth (1:57.55) and junior Hendrick VerMeulen (Bright's Grove, Ont./St. Patrick's Secondary School) eighth (1:58.51).

Calvin's distance medley relay team of senior Jonathan Schaap (Mahomet, Il./Mahomet-Seymour HS), senior Maxwell Vruink (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian HS), VerMeulen and freshman Caleb Ferguson (Naperville, Il./Neuqua Valley HS) took second in a season-best time of 10:30.89.

"It was a great day for our team and for our program," said Otte. "I also want to give a special word of thanks for all of our assistant coaches who put so much time and effort into helping our team members grow as athletes and as young adults. We would not have won today's championship without them."