Grace Beattie fully admits that she’s no speed burner on the track.
To compete in her best event, the 3,000-meter steeplechase, the Illinois State University junior doesn’t necessarily need speed.
“A steeplechaser doesn’t have to be the fastest runner to be good,” said Beattie, a Woodstock graduate. “I’m a mediocre runner in the open 3K. But you have to have grit, and that’s what benefits me.”
On a rainy, 45-degree day last weekend in Terre Haute, Indiana, Beattie showed her tough-as-nails approach by winning the Missouri Valley Conference outdoor steeplechase title by more than six seconds. Her time of 10 minutes, 21.17 seconds ranks seventh in ISU history and is only two seconds off her career-best time of 10:19.77 set last season.
Beattie barely was challenged in the cold, wet conditions after deciding to get off to a blistering start.
“I told my coach, ‘I’m creating a gap at the gun so I can be on my own and do my thing,’ ” she said. “I feel very confident when I’m leading and I’m in control. I knew if I had control from the get-go, I wasn’t going to be looking back.”
Beattie led throughout and was able to avoid congestion around the water barrier jump, the trickiest aspect of the steeplechase.
“It’s not an easy event,” she said. “When you watch it, you think, ‘Why would anyone want to do that?’ It’s
40 degrees out, and you’re getting wet every lap.”
Beattie said her experience as a
300 hurdler in high school – along with being able to clear the barrier with either leg, which avoids slowdowns to stutter step – makes her a good fit for the event.
Her performance at the MVC meet has given Beattie plenty of confidence heading into the NCAA West Regional this month in Sacramento, California.
“If I’m running [close to] my [personal record], and I’m chill, what could I do when I’m running against the top girls in the NCAA?” she said. “I’ve watched my race twice, and my jumps were so efficient.”
Beattie also showed her grit in the 5,000 meters, where she finished fourth in 16:57.20, which was nine seconds off her career-best time.
“I hung on for dear life,” said Beattie, who was running against two athletes whose only race last weekend was the 5K. “It was very painful.”
That pain – and Beattie’s 15 points – provided the Redbirds with some history. The team earned its first back-to-back outdoor MVC titles since 1983-84.
“It’s promising to be part of a program that is making this kind of history,” Beattie said. “You just get the feeling you’re in the right place.”
Clark off to nationals: Kianna Clark, a senior track and field athlete at Lewis University, was named Tuesday as one of five Flyers to qualify for the NCAA Division II outdoor championships.
The Crystal Lake South grad, who is making her first career trip to nationals, qualified in the hammer throw after a career-best effort of 182 feet, 5 inches at last weekend’s Wisconsin-La Crosse Eagle Open.
Clark enters the national meet with the 19th-best throw in the nation.
She won the event May 10 at North Central College’s Dr. Keeler Invitational with a throw of 182-2.
Big East 3-peat for Hedge: Crystal Lake South grad Kyle Hedge won his third consecutive Big East Conference outdoor shot put title last weekend for DePaul.
The senior posted a season-best throw of 53-13/4 to win the event. Huntley grads and fellow Blue Demons Ben Litwin, a freshman, and Isaac Jimenez, a senior, finished seventh and eighth, respectively. The three placers in the event helped DePaul finish third as a team.
CCIW stars: Three McHenry County area athletes – Huntley’s Ethan Sund and Joe Rizzo, and McHenry East’s Colton Klein – were chosen for the All-College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin baseball teams Tuesday.
Sund, a sophomore right-handed pitcher at North Park, led the conference in ERA (1.66) this season pitching mainly out of the bullpen and was chosen for the first team. He had the league’s lowest opponents’ batting average (.192) and fewest runs allowed (15) among all CCIW pitchers. For the season, he finished 5-2 with 55 strikeouts in 541/3 innings.
Klein was named to the second team after finishing second in the conference with a .441 batting average, which ranked 14th in the nation in D-III. The sophomore center fielder was third in the league in total hits (63) and fourth in runs (41) while collecting 11 doubles and four home runs this season.
Rizzo, a sophomore who played second base and catcher at North Central, earned second-team honors after batting .333 with 27 RBIs and not making an error all season.
Providence breakthrough: In her first season as head softball coach at D-I Providence College, Cary-Grove grad Jill Karwoski guided the Friars to their most wins since 2005.
Providence (30-22) qualified for its first Big East Conference Tournament in six years and advanced to the semifinals. The Friars had not played in a Big East postseason semifinal since 2013.
Before becoming Providence’s head coach, she also led programs at Quinnipiac University, Merrimack College and Morehead State.
Reiser runs to podium: Illinois junior Jesse Reiser (McHenry West) earned his second career podium finish at the Big Ten Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships last weekend. Reiser finished eighth in the 1,500 meters in 3:46.02 in Iowa City to help Illinois finish 12th as a team in the men’s standings.
Reiser’s time is the third-best 1,500 effort for the Illini this season and less than two seconds off his season-best time of 3:44.33, which was set last month.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at email@example.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.