Friday, May 27th, 2011 marked a new milestone in the history of women's distance running at TMC, as freshman Holly Kopp became the first female athlete to compete at the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships for The Master's College. In March, Kopp and teammate Hayley Parkinson became the first female athletes ever to qualify for the national meet, with Parkinson leading the way and setting a school record of 17:45 in the 5000m race. Unfortunately, Parkinson was forced to sit out of the national meet due to injury. Going into the 5000m prelim Friday night, Kopp knew she would need to put together a good race in order to move on to Saturday's final. In order to advance, an athlete must finish in the top six of their respective heat, or post one of the next four fastest times overall.
One of only four freshmen in the nation to compete in the prelims of the women's 5000m, Kopp would have to go to work without teammate Parkinson there to help carry the load. Confident in her training and excited for an opportunity to do something never done before, Kopp went to the line prepared to compete for a top six finish.
Coach Schroeder's race plan was to run conservative early on, and negative split towards the finish. Kopp executed the predetermined plan perfectly, coming through the first 400m at the back of the field, hitting her split and demonstrating remarkable confidence and patience for a freshman. Working her way up throughout the next 10 laps of competition, Kopp found herself in 7th place with 800m to go. With teammate Hayley Parkinson cheering her on, Kopp began her final push toward the finish. Taking over 6th place with 200m to go, Kopp crossed the line to secure her advance and set a new school record of 17:39.
Kopp now holds school records in the 1500m, the 5000m and the half marathon. Kopp's remarkable progression is truly a testament to the young athlete's commitment and dedication to excellence. Such dedication bodes extremely well for the coming cross country season, as the Lady Mustangs set their aim at becoming the first women's team in school history to qualify for the NAIA Cross Country National Championships.
Kopp will compete in the final of the women's 5000m later today. Stay tuned for results.