BEREA, Ohio -- The Baldwin Wallace women’s indoor track-and-field team has found that reality is far better than the dream.
With the goal of taking home a trophy as one of the top four teams at last weekend’s NCAA Division III National Championships at the Bear Recreation and Athletic Center in Grinnell, Iowa, the Yellow Jackets outperformed the competition and not only won a trophy, but took home the National Championship, a first for the program and second-ever team title for the University.
“It’s a dream come true,” coach Matt Cole said. “We went into the championship hoping that we could walk away with a trophy, and I thought if we had a good weekend, we could come home with a trophy, but our girls performed beyond expectations.
“They had career bests in every, single event they competed, and they outright deserved it better than anybody. As the day went along, our points kept holding. There’s a lot of good teams in Division III on the women’s side, and there were a lot of points to be had on the second day of competition, and our girls added to their point total and put themselves out of reach.”
On the first day of competition, two Yellow Jackets, Kim Gallavan and Melanie Winters, not only earned All-American status, but won individual national championships.
Gallavan won the weight throw with a toss of 62 feet, nine inches. A two-time Ohio Athletic Conference Indoor Women’s Field Athlete of the Year, Gallavan surpassed her previous personal best by almost two feet.
“Where to start with Kim? The hardest worker I know,” throws coach Kevin Phipps said. “I could say that about a lot of kids in our group absolutely, but Kim just has that hunger and that drive to be the best she can, and she competes for herself, she competes for our program extremely well. Her passion for the sport, her willingness to learn has just been tremendous, and getting that experience with her over four years to kind of come together at a meet like that and win a National Championship, no one deserves it more than her.
“To get to that meet, the hay’s in the barn. All the work’s done. It’s time to perform and she saw the door and kicked it open, took advantage of that. All the work she’s put in, she’s fighting through injury right now, she fought through injury at the championship and throughout this year and never let up. She continued to work and push herself harder than she ever has. It feels real special to be a part of it, absolutely.”
After Gallavan took home her national championship, Winters won the long jump with a school-record leap of 19 feet, 6.25 inches. Also, Winters advanced to the finals of the 60-meter hurdles.
“She is a very gifted athlete, and I always thought that if things lined up correctly, she could win some type of national title,” sprints/jumps coach Todd Swisher said. “I really thought that she would be a multi-event champion just because of her abilities. Friday night, when we started the long jump, she took her first one, and it was a decent jump. Then, her second one, it was a lifetime best, so I thought, ‘Oh, wow! This could be really, really amazing.’
“What I really thought going into the weekend was she would have a better chance to win the high jump just because she had been high-jumping so well this year. Then, she hit that big long jump, and it was a great, great feeling, great thing for her. It was really just awesome to be a part of.”
During the second day of competition, Gallavan won the shot put with a personal-record throw of 48-feet, three inches, en route to earning her fifth career All-American honor.
Winters finished fourth in the high jump and placed third in the 60-meter hurdles, while teammate Erin Kasper posted a sixth-place effort in the high jump, all of which helped the Yellow Jackets win the National Championship.
“It’s definitely a surreal feeling,” Phipps said. “It’s something we didn’t expect going into the weekend, and it’s something, as a coach, you hope to get to and you dream of. For our kids to come out and compete the way they did, it just was real special.”
Swisher added, “It’s awesome. In all of the years I’ve been coaching, it was probably the greatest thing feeling-wise, watching it happen at the meet. It was amazing, but as a coach, I think you always dream about, ‘Wow! It’d be great to be a part of a National Championship.’ You go to the meets, you watch the teams compete and you think, ‘Wow! I don’t know that that’ll ever happen.’ With the talent that we took this year, we had thought, ‘Well, we could do pretty well,’ but I don’t think I ever dreamed I could be part of a National Championship, but it’s awesome. It’s a great thing.”