While Joy Shufeldt’s and Aaron Jenkins’s 76th and 217th place finishes respectively on Saturday at the NCAA Divison III championship meet in Oshkosh, Wis. could be called disappointing, the accomplishment of competing at that level should not be demeaned. Coach Toby Schwarz acknowledges that. “It’s always tough to end on a disappointing note, but then again, when you’re finishing at nationals you can’t do anything better than that,” Schwarz said.
Jenkins, a senior, finished his Whitworth cross country career as a decorated athlete. He qualified for nationals on an at-large bid after finishing 14th at the NCAA Division III West Region meet last weekend. He has been a two-year captain of the men’s cross country team and a lead runner for the Pirates all four years. Jenkins has received first team all-Northwest Conference three out of his four years, receiving second team honors once.
“The race didn’t go very well for me,” Jenkins said in reference to Saturday’s meet. “But I received more support than I deserve from my parents, coaches, and teammates.”
Schwarz was complimentary of Jenkins contributions to Whitworth Cross Country.
“He’ll be a hard person to replace for a couple of reasons,” Schwarz said. “Obviously for his athleticism and then his commitment and dedication to the team.”
Though cross country is over for Jenkins, running for Whitworth is not. At this point, Jenkins’s goal is to go to nationals in the 10k for outdoor track.
Shufeldt went into the weekend with the goal of being an all-American for the second time, but came up short.
“Joy did great,” Schwarz said. “You know, she put herself in position to be an All-American and she was in that position with 1000 meters to go.”
In the final mile Shufeldt said she lost confidence, watching people passing her consistently. Though frustrated about not achieving her goal, she had an optimistic attitude about her experience at nationals.
“It definitely didn’t go as well as I wanted it to, but it was still a good learning experience,” Shufeldt said. “I’m glad I was able to go and I’m really glad I have one more year.
Schwarz mentioned the paradigm of Shufeldt’s freshman year as a hard standard to achieve again. She received both all-NWC and all-American honors in the 2009 season and has yet to accomplish that over. Schwarz and Shufeldt both are upbeat about Shufeldt’s potential for next year. She will also participate in track season this spring.
“She started cross country [this season] basically where she was freshman year,” Schwarz said. “When she starts up next year for cross country she’s basically going to carry the momentum.”
With Saturday’s meet in hindsight, Shufeldt said mental toughness would be a focus for her this off-season.
“Yesterday was just a humbling experience for me and a good reality check that not everything is going to go exactly as a I planned, but I need to learn from it and move on,” Shufeldt said.
Also regarding Saturday as a thing of the past, Schwarz is still proud of what these two runners have accomplished.
“It’s better to finish disappointing at nationals than at conference,” Schwarz said. “Aaron and Joy didn’t have the season they were looking forward to but still had a successful season.”
By Sena Hughes