By Michael Sundby
At the Wartburg College Indoor Qualifier on Saturday, March 4 in Waverly, Iowa, four members of the Women’s Track & Field team broke the Grinnell College record in the distance medley relay (DMR). Zoe Schmiechen ‘17, Shannon Young ‘17, Anna Ahrens ‘19 and Mikayla Fujiwara ‘20 broke the previous school record set in 1997 by an impressive 12 seconds.
The DMR is a four-person relay in which each runner runs a different distance. It starts off with the 1200 meter, run by Ahrens, which is followed by a 400 meter run by Schmiechen, an 800 meter run by Fujiwara and concludes with a mile run by Young. At the end of each leg, runners exchange a baton with their teammates.
The record breakers only found out they were to run the DMR together on the Monday before the race.
“We thought we were done with our season,” Young said, referring to the indoor track season.
Track runners often train so that their fitness culminates at a certain point in the season, for one or two big races. For the DMR runners, this meant holding that level of fitness for an extra week.
“Holding a taper [can be] really hard,” Young added.
However, after the coaches crunched some numbers, they concluded that the four runners could probably break Grinnell’s record and decided to have them run the race on March 4. According to Schmiechen, the coaches were confident that the record would be broken. The only question was by how much.
“And I don’t think any of us imagined that we would beat it by twelve seconds,” she said.
While it was the first time all four athletes ran the DMR together, Ahrens and Fujiwara were also accustomed to different races. “Anna and I were long distance runners, so we were training for the 3k and the 5k,” Fujiwara said. “It was … a surprise to be thrown into these mid-distance races with no experience whatsoever, so we just tried to hit our times.”
“We went off too fast,” Ahrens added, half-jokingly.
“But you held on,” Schmiechen responded.
Schmiechen,Young, Ahrens and Fujiwara were chosen for the DMR because of their individual talent and promise.
“We were put together because our coach saw that … if we put our numbers together, we could do really well. But I also think that each of us is a very consistent runner, and that’s really important,” Young said. “An extra factor in a relay [is that] everyone has to have a good race.”
While the distance medley relay is a uniquely indoor event, the four runners are optimistic for the outdoor season, which starts in Florida over spring break. “As a team, we really train for outdoor,” Young explained. “Our coaches … stress that indoor’s [for] building our base – in outdoor we really start to break out.”