The Methodist Monarchs came to Newport News as the women's team favorites in defense of their 2011 Mason-Dixon Title. The Captains held an advantage in the jumps and distance events, but had to overcome the Monarchs' depth in the speed events. The title was finally decided in the final event of the day - the Distance Medley Relay.
The pre-meet form charts gave defending champion Methodist the edge by fourteen points. The Monarchs claimed their 2011 title with lots of speed and returned to Newport News with the same formula - plus two of the top throwers in the Conference. The Captains had a fairly balanced attack ready though with a lot of points invested in the vertical jumps and senior stand-out Dira Hansen (Culpeper, VA).
The day started with some concern for the Captains as senior Jill Raines (Jeffersonton, VA) was off her best in the Weight Throw placing 5th (10.90m/35-9.25). Freshman Valerie Washington (Charlottesville, VA) earned her first All-Conference honor with a 6th place 10.61m/34-9.75, but the Captains only claimed three of the seven points they were expecting in the even.
The Pole Vault was dominated by the Captains, taking all but one scoring place on the strength of five PRs. Amanda Reap (White Post, VA) got the first PR at 2.30m/7-6.5 for a non-scoring 7th place finish and Caitlyn Pabst (East Patchogue, NY) earned the next one for a point in 6th (2.45m/8-0.5). Taryn Langley (Hopewell, VA) struggled to find her rhythm and finished 5th on misses at 2.60m/8-6.25. Kelsey Dolinger (Stafford, VA) cleared the same height for the bronze medal, equaling her PR and #9 ranking on CNU's All-Time List. Freshman Lauren Snell (Chesapeake, VA) had been limited by a foot injury this season, but came up with a 6" PR to finish 2nd and move to =#4 on the CNU List (3.20m/10-6). Kalee Hammerton (Royersford, PA) earned the Captains' first gold of the day with another PR 3.35m/10-11.75 to become CNU's #3 Pole Vaulter ever before taking good attempts at the Meet Record (3.50m). The one non-CNU scorer in the event managed to place one spot higher than her seed and the Captains lost another two points from the form charts.
The Long Jumpers provided a little relief with Dira Hansen taking two jumps - one in the first round that had her 4th going in to the finals. Teammate Caitlin Miller (Huntington, NY) dropped a PR 4.89m/16-0.5 effort on her second jump to grab a bonus point. Hansen's jump in the finals - 5.29m/17-4.25 - moved her past two Methodist jumpers and in to 2nd place. Meanwhile in the preliminary rounds of the 60m and 60m Hurdles, the Captains captured three PRs - Olivia Green's (Fairfax, VA) 8.38 and 8.37 in the first two rounds of the Dash and Danielle Crowley's (Rockville, MD) 9.78 in the qualifying round of the Hurdles. More importantly, Cheria Jackson (Woodbridge, VA) took a spot in the finals of the Dash while Crowley and fellow freshman Fredsal Walker (Herndon, VA) made the finals in the Hurdles.
The High Jump was another event where the Captains were expected to pile up a lot of points and this time they beat their seed points by one. Jenna Elliott (Fredericksburg, VA) took the gold with a 1.60m/5-3 clearance. Hansen, Noel Bartley (Waynesboro, VA), and Enuma Ezenwa (Herndon, VA) all cleared 1.50m/4-11 for places 3-5, respectively, and for Bartley it was a lifetime best.
As the High Jump was wrapping up, the Milers were making their mark. Erin Rolaf (Woodbridge, VA) chased to a silver colored six-second PR 5:22.97 (#6 All-Time for CNU) getting around Methodist's Kristy Zeiler late in the race. Jessica McClelland (Stafford, VA) was 4th in 5:27.36 - also a six second lifetime best. Emily Whitby (Alexandria, VA) followed suit with her own five second PR (6:14.68).
After scoring the Mile and High Jump, the Monarchs and Captains were back to even with the form charts' point predictions. Methodist landed their biggest blow of the day in the next final, scoring 14 points to the Captain's 10 in the 60m Hurdles - a seven point swing to their favor. It was not for lack of effort by the Captains - Crowley ran to 5th in 9.84 (her second fastest time ever) and Walker dropped her PR to 9.39 for 2nd place.
The Captains did not wait long to respond. Dira Hansen blasted a come-from-behind upset victory in the 400m (58.89) for an 11 point turn-around on the Monarchs. In the previous heat, Taylor McCord (Springfield, VA) legged a PR 62.47 for 9th place. After watching her teammate Cheria Jackson claim an un-seeded point in the 60m Dash finals and Methodist drop another four points on their own, Hansen lined up for the 800m and cruised to another victory. Though McClelland tied up a bit in the closing meters and was bumped to 5th place (2:30.37), the Captains were about to take the virtual lead.
Before heading to the track, Hansen posted a 10.79m/35-5 mark in the Triple Jump that held up for 2nd heading in to the finals. While she was running, teammates Cheria Jackson and Caitlin Miller landed themselves in 4th and 5th place, respectively, with Jackson's 10.50m/34-5.5 being an indoor PR. The final three rounds of competition were crucial as Methodist entered in first and third. Hansen added nearly a foot to her initial jump (11.07m/36-4), but could not quite grab gold. Jackson, however, bombed a 10.79m/35-5 all-time best to move in to 3rd and Miller followed with a 10.69m/35-1 PR to claim 4th and create another 8 point swing in favor of the Captains. Meanwhile Valerie Washington moved up a place from her seeding with a 10.66m/34-11.75 for bronze in the Shot Put and countered the two point gain made by Methodist in the event.
With four events to go, the Captains were now 15 points up on the form charts - now seeded to prevail by one point for the title.
Methodist owned four of the five lanes in the fastest section of the 200m and two more in the penultimate heat. The Captains had two each in the third and fourth of five sections (going from slowest to fastest seeds). Cheria Jackson set the tone in the third heat, winning by over a second with a season-bset 26.66. Fredsal Walker followed suit with a 26.38 heat victory - and Jackson still sat 2nd over-all. When the times popped up after the final section, Walker had held on for 3rd (by 0.005 seconds) and Jackson ended up 5th to complete another 10 point swing in favor of CNU.
In spite of another great run by sophomore Erin Rolaf in the 5k - an 18:50.56 PR for another silver and #5 on the CNU All-Time List - and a 4th place 19:09.04 from senior Jade Zaharoff (Vienna, VA) (plus a 20:29.86 PR for Sarah Russell (Manassas, VA) in 8th), the Captain's lost eight points to their seeding and were a point short of Methodist in the real-time scoring heading in to the relays.
Both teams loaded up the 4x400m Relays with the Captain's hoping to make the Distance Medley a winner-take-all for the team title. Fredsal Walker got out aggressively, but tied up over the final 100m. A crowded exchange saw Virginia Wesleyan and Neumann escape with the lead while CNU and Methodist were in a dead heat five meters further back. Methodist took the lead within 100m and Taylor McCord moved the Captains in to second with a lap to go on her leg. Wesleyan came back on both by the exchange and all three left within a few steps with senior Kristen Bell (Vienna, VA) on duty for the Captains. With 150m to go, Bell had moved in to second again, but could not close on Methodist. In spite of an indoor best 60.5 split, she gave Dira Hansen the baton with a 10m deficit - too much to overcome, even with a 58.6 leg.
Methodist had three points on the Captains going in to the Distance Medley Relay and only had to finish immediately behind CNU to defend their title. Both Virginia Wesleyan and Gwynedd-Mercy were threats to the Captains' best quartet. The fastest miler in the meet had passed on the open event to secure points in other areas, but she was needed now to keep as many teams between her and Methodist as possible - and Hansen was up to the challenge.
As it turned out, Methodist had run out of steam and needed three of their 4x4 squad to carry the baton through the final relay. 1200m is a lot to ask of a pure sprinter, but the Monarchs kept the baton moving for the two points waiting for them at the finish - forcing the Captains to finish at least 3rd for the Mason-Dixon Team Championship. Erin Rolaf (4:03.6), Caitlin Miller (64.5), and Jessica McClelland (2:28.5) gave Hansen the baton with a solid lead. Having already scored 44 points for the team, the senior's legs were understandably worn. In the final laps, she surrendered the lead and looked like she might be done. She told herself she had to kick and discovered that she still had a kick - rolling back in to the lead and securing a five point team victory for the Captains.
Final scores: CNU 168, Methodist 163, and Shenandoah third with 42 points. Dira Hansen's 22 field event points (second in the Long and Triple Jumps, third in the High Jump) earned her the Outstanding Field Event Athlete award. She returned to the podium to collect her Outstanding Track Event Athlete trophy for her golds in the 400m, 800m, and DMR, plus the silver in the 4x400m Relay.