GULF SHORES, Ala. – The Spring Arbor University track and field teams wrapped up competition at the 2017 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships on Saturday.
The final day of events began bright and early with the marathon where three Cougars participated in the race. Hannah Hoffmann, Caitlin Clark and Daniel Garza were among the 126 athletes (49 women, 77 men) qualified. Despite the 6 a.m. CST start time, the hot and humid weather of Gulf Shores took its toll on the field by, knocking out over one-third of the runners.
Hoffmann, running her first-ever marathon, was one of the 38 female athletes to complete the 26.2 mile course, crossing the finish line in 3:29:58 to earn 13th place – just five spots outside of All-American.
"Hannah has worked for three years for this moment and it was exciting to see it pay off," said head women's coach Bryan Burk. She finished 13th when she went in ranked 32nd. She persevered through brutal conditions of 80 degrees and 88 percent humidity to finish a race that is tough in cooler conditions. I could not be more proud of the way she represented SAU and also set a standard of hard work and dedication for the teammates who will her."
Clark, who primarily competed in the 5000 and 10,000 meters throughout the season, completed just over half of the race. Running in her first marathon, it was a great opportunity for the Brooklyn, Michigan native to gain valuable experience.
"We are preparing Caitlin for future years in the event and planned for her to drop out at mile 14.5," commented Burk. "Our goal was for her to get some experience in the race but not overload her at this point in her career."
In his first nationals appearance, Garza battled through the harsh conditions but ultimately dropped out of the race just past the half-marathon point due to the heat and humidity.
Michaela Werner of Oklahoma City won the women's race in 3:03:41 while Christian Graham of St. Mary (Kan.) took the men's title in 2:37:31.
British Columbia captured its first-ever men's team national championship gathering 71 total points. Wayland Baptist (Texas) claimed the women's title - its second in three years - with 75 points.
Spring Arbor closed out the national meet with two All-American performances. Sophomore Katrina Tovar finished eighth in the pole vault to collect her second career All-American award while freshman AJ Gruttadauro placed fourth in the 5000 meter race walk for his first All-American honor.