Three Fort Wayne natives will compete for Indiana at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., which begin today.
For one, it will be business as usual and a chance to repeat as a collegiate champion.
For another, it will be a shot to continue a legacy of success in the steeplechase – and create one for himself.
Andy Bayer, a distance runner for the Hoosiers and Leo graduate, aims to defend the 1,500-meter title he won last outdoor season. And Robby Nierman, a steeplechase runner and Carroll graduate, is staring at his first shot at a national title.
Sophie Guthermuth, a pole vault competitor and Leo graduate, will also compete in Eugene.
I think it’s going to be pretty crazy, Nierman said. There’s going to be a lot of excitement.
Bayer has crafted a legacy in Bloomington after a good, but not great, career at Leo. He has gone from an unknown distance specialist to one of the best in the NCAA.
After four years, the Olympic hopeful’s name is etched all over the IU record books, next to names like Bob Kennedy, a former Olympian who held American records in several distance events during his career.
I had to come to Indiana with a chip on my shoulder and work to prove that I belong here, said Bayer, who is also a candidate for Academic All-American honors this season. I feel like at this point, I’m one of the top guys in the NCAA.
His track record proves that. But Nierman, a junior, has a far less decorated résumé ahead of his first appearance on the national scene.
He had to wait his turn behind a pair of talented steeplechasers – Andrew Poore and De’Sean Turner – who were All-Americans in the event and graduated in 2012.
A year later, Nierman has helped fill the void in the 3,000-meter event, which features five log-like hurdles and a water pit.
You have to jump over five barriers with one of them being a water pit right after the barrier, so you have to put your foot on the barrier and push off to get over the water pit, Nieman said. The barriers are basically railroad ties. They don’t move at all, so it would hurt really bad if you hit one of those.
Nierman, who went to Bloomington as a distance runner, picked up the event during college.
He has been doing hurdle work twice a week since November, along with his distance training and, eventually, steeple workouts.
That training has helped IU put together a fourth-straight year with at least one steepler at the national championship. Nierman ran a career-best 8:46.95 in the event during the NCAA East Preliminary Round on May 24 to qualify for the championship.
Freshman Josh Roche will also compete in the event for the Hoosiers.
It takes a bit of everything, Nierman said of his event. It takes athleticism, it takes strength and it takes aerobic endurance with a little bit of a mix of speed coming down the last couple laps.
Guthermuth saved her best for the preliminary round, as well. The redshirt freshman’s career best jump was 3.92 meters entering the qualifier. She was seeded No. 40 out of 48 competitors.
Then, she cleared 4.10 on her third attempt and earned a trip to Eugene.