The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) officially announced its All-American honorees for indoor track and field and the Huntington University indoor track and field program piled up a total of 23 badges.
The awards were issued as a result of the outcomes at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships, held March 5–7 in Brookings, South Dakota.
Huntington’s women’s team did the majority of the damage in the All-American honors, accumulating 15 badges en route to the Foresters’ first-ever NAIA national championship. Aspen Dirr and Hannah Stoffel led the way with five All-American awards each, with both runners claiming three individually and two in team relay events.
Dirr earned her individual honors in the 1,000 meter run, mile run and 5,000 meter run. The native of Hudson, Indiana, stopped the clock first in the 1,000 meter run at 2:50.10 and in the mile at 4:53.72 to win titles in both events. Dirr’s individual All-American recognitions were finished off in the 5,000 meter run, where she placed second with a time of 17:12.59.
Stoffel claimed the national title in the 800 meter run, clocking in at 2:08.98. The Huntington native finished just off Dirr’s pace in the mile run, timing in second at 4:55.21. Stoffel rounded out her individual All-American honors in the 600 meters, placing third with a time of 1:32.09.
Molly Mitchell capped the women’s individual All-American contingent by finishing fourth in the mile run with a time of 4:57.18, outrunning her seeding of eighth.
Dirr, Mitchell and Stoffel joined Mara McFarland in earning All-American badges in both the 4x800 meter relay and the distance medley relay. Huntington’s quartet took home the event titles in both races, clocking in at 9:06.20 in the 4x800 meter relay before stopping the clock at 11:46.71 in the distance medley relay, which clinched the team national championship for the Foresters.
The 15 All-American honors for the Forester women dwarfed the rest of the Crossroads League, as Indiana Wesleyan University accumulated the second-most badges in the conference with seven.
“The progression of (the) women’s program over the last year is nothing short of extraordinary,” said head coach Joel Childs. “This is a squad of ladies that we knew could be great, but we needed them to believe it as well. And certainly, the achievements they have had this year show us that our ladies believe it now, too. They went from finishing sixth at the indoor and eighth at the outdoor Crossroad League meet last year to finishing 10th at NAIA Cross Country Nationals earlier this year and then of course winning NAIA Indoor Nationals. Although we graduate some great talent, I am very excited to see what the future holds for this ladies’ program. I would have really loved to see what these ladies could have achieved if we would have had Outdoor Nationals this year.”
On the men’s side, Huntington racked up eight awards in two events, headlined by a pair of All-American honors for Elijah Chesterman and Adrien Gentie.
Chesterman and Gentie competed in both the 4x800 meter relay and distance medley relay for the Foresters.
The duo joined Peyton Depriest and Halie Stutzman in the distance medley relay, where the team finished fifth with a time of 10:13.11.
Aaron Hendryx and Josiah Sovine teamed up with Chesterman and Gentie in the 4x800 meter relay, where the squad posted a time of 7:43.35, good for sixth place.
“Just like our ladies’ group, our men’s program has also come a long way over the last year,” Childs said. “Our men’s team shares the same level of commitment as our women do, which is why they have also made prodigious gains this year. Our men finished sixth at the indoor and seventh at the outdoor Crossroad League meet last year. This year, the men finished 17th at NAIA Cross Country Nationals and finished 37th at NAIA Indoor Nationals. The 37th-place finish was out of over 120 teams and over 1,000 athletes that qualified for Indoor Nationals meet, too. Additionally, this men’s team last year at Indoor and Outdoor NAIA Nationals did not have any All-Americans, but this year we left Indoor Nationals with eight of them. As much as I am very excited for the development of our ladies program, I am just as eager to see what our men’s squad can do in the future and I would have loved to have seen them also compete at Outdoor Nationals this year.”
The Foresters’ eight All-American badges tied for the most by any Crossroads League school.