4×400-meter relay team earns All-America honors at nationals


(Photo: Courtesy of Jordan Coughenour)

by Matt Lash, Sports Reporter

NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Generally, the four runners in a 4×400 relay team become close friends over the course of the season, but the quartet of Chase Wetterling, Travis Tupper, Jordan Coughenour and Kirk Wicks became more than that.

With a final race time of 3:19.98, the 10th-seeded relay put up a strong seventh-place finish at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championship meet last weekend in Naperville, Illinois. In relation to the beginning of the season, the relay cut nearly two seconds between the Wartburg quarterfinal meet on March 4 and their performance at the DIII National Championship meet on March 10. That kind of time doesn’t usually happen overnight, especially when they were already running as fast as they were.

“I’ve grown close to everyone on the team, but the members of the 4×400 this year have grown especially closer to me this year,” Wicks, a sophomore said. “They’ve grown extremely close to me, like brothers.”

Prior to the season, Wicks set a personal goal to become an Iowa Conference champion. At the conclusion of the indoor track season, he met his own expectations and more as the anchor of the All-American 4×400 relay team.

“My main goal going into my entire sophomore year was to win a conference championship,” Wicks said. “Being able to achieve that and more has made me re-evaluate my goals for the future.”

Wetterling said he’s proud to be an All-American, but has high expectations for himself moving forward.

“I had set the goal to be a national champion, and we fell short of that,” Wetterling said. “As a team, we had the goal of a conference championship, and we were unable to accomplish that one, too. Overall though, I am very pleased about how the season turned out, but I am ready to accomplish more.”

Entering the outdoor season of his sophomore year, Wetterling hopes to return to the podium as IIAC champions in the 4×400 relay as well as a top-three finish in his individual race, the open 400-meter run.

Much like Wetterling, Coughenour, a junior, has high expectations for himself for the upcoming outdoor season, as well as the rest of his collegiate track career.

“My personal expectations are to repeat a conference championship in the 400 hurdles as well as winning another championship in the 4×400,” Coughenour said. “Qualifying for nationals in those event is a high expectation for me as well because I was less than a second off the qualifying mark for the 400 hurdles outdoor last year.”

Lastly, Tupper, a junior and the second runner in the relay, hopes the same relay can lead the Storm through the outdoor season and into the indoor season next year.

“The 4×4 got to nationals indoor, and I expect us to do the same for outdoor,” Tupper said. “We are not the fastest guys out there and we won’t be individually, but we are willing to push ourselves and know that we are outworking our competition. So when we come together as a unit, great things happen.”

Although they missed the final cut, junior Dylan Kalinay and sophomore Emmitt Wheatley had remarkable seasons. Both set Simpson records in the 60-meter hurdles and 200-meter run, respectively, earned a trip to the national meet, and finished just seconds away from earning All-America honors themselves.

The team will continue running in the outdoor season, starting March 31 with a meet in Pella against conference rival Central and other conference teams.