Lost in her euphoria, the announced time of her victory in the 400-meter hurdles race was nothing but background noise in the head of Wichita State’s Natalie Morerod.
But when she was finally informed of her time — 57.48 seconds — looked like it injected enough energy into Morerod for her to run the race again. It was such a marked improvement from her own school-record time of 59.08, she still couldn’t believe it hours after the race.
“Apparently I couldn’t think because I thought they said 58.74,” Morerod said. “And when I found out the time, I thought I was going to pass out. I knew it was fast, but not that fast. That’s like an Olympic B standard time.”
Morerod’s victory highlighted the third and final day of the Missouri Valley Championships held this weekend at Cessna Stadium, as the Shocker women’s team won its second consecutive outdoor team title. The women had six champions, three coming on Sunday in Morerod, Danielle Chapman (800) and Aliphine Tuliamuk (5,000).
Wichita State coach Steve Rainbolt was named Coach of the Year, Morerod received Most Outstanding Athlete and Audacia Moore won the Elite-18 award.
“(Morerod) has just developed so spectacularly,” Rainbolt said. “It’s been unbelievable. What she did today was nothing short of remarkable. She’s such a smooth, and rhythmic and powerful runner. She’s truly become one of the premier athletes in the Missouri Valley Conference.”
But the spoiler on the day was the men’s team finishing agonizingly close to a team title for the fourth straight conference meet. WSU finished second to Indiana State by 12½ points, hurt by coming up empty in expected point-scoring events like the pole vault and discus.
“I can tell you our guys are determined to try and win it, but we didn’t get it done in some areas,” Rainbolt said. “At a meet like this with a terrific team like Indiana State, we have to get it done everywhere in order to win the championship.”
Wichita State felt like it had the potential to win multiple events with its men’s team on the track on Sunday, but the only one that came to fruition was senior Dylan Hartnett in the 400.
Hartnett, who never won the400 at state in his four years at Dodge City, will walk away with three titles in his collegiate career. He won in a time of 47.49.
“I’m real happy with how everything turned out,” Hartnett said. “It’s a feeling of satisfaction, I guess you could say.”
A surprise winner for the women’s team was Danielle Chapman in the 800. She entered with the third-fastest seed time, but broke the meet record with her winning time of 2 minutes, 6.69 seconds.
“I think where I definitely did well in was my last 200,” Chapman said. “I kept my head down and kept pushing. I’ve practiced enough hard workouts here on this track that I was able to push through it.”
But the biggest winner on the day was Morerod. After falling over a hurdle in the finals last year, she wrote her redemption story in a way not even she thought was possible.
“For me, it meant everything because this is the day that it counts for my team,” Morerod said. “At the NCAAs, that’s me. So it’s such a relief and blessing to be able to do this today, when it’s most important for our team. We were in front of our home crowd, on our own track, our battlefield, so we weren’t going to be stopped today.”
The men thought the same thing, but have to settle for an empty feeling for another year.
“This one hurts because I wanted to end my career with a championship in my final conference meet,” Hartnett said. “Still though, I wouldn’t trade this team for any other team in the nation.”