May 24-26 three members of the Loyola track and field team raced in the NCAA West Regional in Sacramento, California.
In the preliminary race, junior Kevin White (800-meter and 1,500-meter) qualified for the quarterfinal race, but redshirt junior Lindsey Brewis (5,000-meter) and senior Emma Hatch (10,000-meter) fell short of the quarterfinal and ended their seasons. White finished third in the quarterfinal allowing him to advance to the NCAA Championships.
White is the first Rambler to advance in the 1,500m run at the regional meet since Sam Penzenstadler in 2015. White competed in the regional meet last year with the 800m, but this is his first season competing in the 1,500m.
“The 800 is a lot more speed oriented,” White said. “I’ve been a strong competitor for that, but I knew that if I was going to be a future contender for a national title, or if I wanted to make the Olympics or something, it probably wouldn’t be in the 800m.”
White said he knew he would transition into running the 1,500m one day. He said he was recruited to eventually run the 800m but they planned to transition him to the 1,500m runner. It played out exactly how it was planned — White ran the 800m for his first two years but slowly worked his way up to the 1,500m.
White and his coaches wanted him to enter in the 1,500m in the regional meet, but only the top 48 entries advance. At the time, he was 17th in the nation for the 800m and 57th in the region in the 1,500m.
Assistant coach Mircea Bogdan, who works with the distance runners, said they placed him in both events to ensure he competed.
“He had competed the 800m in last year’s regionals, but did not advance,” Bogdan said. “So, placing him in both was a way to make sure he had a chance at the national competition. But only after his success in the first heat did we fully decide to stick to the plan and have him focus on the 1,500m.”
White said while the 800m is all about speed, runners must focus on speed and positioning in the 1,500m.
“Even though I came in with one of the slowest times of all of those guys, I knew that if I could position myself correctly I could use that 800 speed to pass people and get into the next round each time,” White said.
After placing fourth in the 1500m preliminary race, White said he was was sick with a cold and the stomach flu at the beginning of the week. Bogdan and White were nervous for how the meet was going to go.
“We really had no idea with that first [preliminary] what I was going to do, because I had just been so sick,” White said. “We had a strategy that you could work with while being under the weather. Hanging in the back and then really moving fast in the end, because then you aren’t stressed the whole race.”
In the quarterfinal race, White had a late surge in the last 400-meters to finish third in the event with a time of 3:43.26. Not only did this earn him an automatic berth to the national meet, but it also was a personal record for White.
“I was excited because my times in the 1,500 had always been kind of soft,” White said. “I’ve always wanted to do more. I think out of the entire field, only two to three guys had PR’d and I was one of them. It just made me feel really confident moving forward that I can run a PR under the weather.”
Although White has had a good outdoor track season, he said he has made it farther than he expected. During the cross country season, he was confident with in his abilities in the 1,500m. During the indoor track season, White was diagnosed with appendicitis, resulting in his appendix being taken out and two months without intense workouts.
“I really wasn’t sure where I would go,” White said “I’m in better shape than what I would’ve thought. But now that I’m here, I expect to make it through the semi-[final] to the final and then finish in the top eight or top five.”
After both Hatch and Brewis failed to advance in their meets, White will be the only Rambler at the championship. He said he thinks it’s a good opportunity to motivate the rest of the team.
“I would definitely love to have more teammates with me next year, and I think I will,” White said. “By myself going and continue to advance and hopefully finish high, that will light the spark to get my other teammates out here.“
White is slated to compete in the 1,500m run national semifinals at approximately 6:46 p.m. CDT in Eugene, Oregon June 6.