by Beatrice Vantapool
Lucy Van Dalen, a senior sociology major, took the gold in the mile and tenth place in the 300-meter race for Stony Brook in the women’s indoor track and field NCAA championships Friday, March 9 at Jacksons Indoor Track Center at Boise State University in Idaho.
Entering with the highest seedtime for the mile, Van Dalen was the favorite to win, finishing with a time of 4:39.76, just milliseconds away from her competitors. Aisha Praught, a senior from Illinois State, came in second, leaving University of Oregon’s Jordan Hasay in third.
The 3000-meter was considered a back-up race for Van Dalen, who took tenth with a time of 9:20.27.
“I focused on the mile at nationals and the 3k was just sort of, eh, just another race to do,” said Van Dalen.
Preparation for the race was not simply a one-semester task for Van Dalen. Since coming to America from New Zealand, the NCAA championship was an aspiration that required a lot of strength and speed training.
“I’ve been preparing for this race for about five years now and it’s always been my goal to win a national title,” she said. “It’s not just a season which prepares you for that one race; it’s the buildup over the five years that I’ve been here and working with Andy, my coach.”
A close relationship with her head coach was part of her recipe for success. The two have worked together over the last five years, training not only for her indoor and outdoor seasonal meets, but also for her national goals.
“In particular, we set a plan in motion at the beginning of the fall and the goal was to get the qualifying times done as early as possible,” said Head Coach Ronan. “She qualified for the mile in December, which allowed us to work more toward the actual race itself and not worry about getting there.”
Van Dalen is the first SBU track and field athlete to win an NCAA championship title, a goal of the program since it reached Division I status in 1994. The establishment of the program, not only in the conference, but also at the national level, has also been a goal over the last seven to eight years, according to Ronan.
“What it means for us is that we have a foot in the door and it will hopefully allow us to attract more quality student athletes like we have now,” said Ronan. “We want to try to compete at that level, the NCAA level and D1 level, on a consistent basis because the opportunity to win a national title comes along maybe once, twice in a career.”
On a more personal level, the win gave Van Dalen more confidence in the performance nationally, as well as more opportunities after college. She hopes to go forward and win the mile at an upcoming national meet, and someday represent New Zealand at the Olympics.