Elena Cano can finally cross one final thing off her list of collegiate achievements.
This week marks the first time the graduate senior had made it to nationals with the UAA track and field team, where she will compete in the heptathlon and 400-meter hurdles.
Cano joined two other Seawolves teammates at the NCAA Division II national track and field championships with hopes of bringing home the gold.
“This is my last year, so I’m happy that I can do it before I’m out,” Cano said.
She is currently in her master’s program and felt like three years ago in her true senior year was when she was going to catch her big break with nationals.
“I had won my first GNAC title in indoor for the pentathlon, and I felt like it was all coming together for me and I felt like I was going to go off in outdoor,” Cano said.
COVID-19 robbed her of the chance to build upon her best season to date. Even though in the moment, Cano said that it was “the worst timing ever,” she believes that it ended up being a “blessing in disguise” because it afforded the opportunity to have another year of eligibility to further refine her craft.
“I’ve just been working super hard, and I had no doubt that if I was going to get through the season healthy, that I was going to be at the national meet,” Cano said.
While this is freshman distance runner Cole Nash’s second time at a national championship meet this school year, it is his first for track and field. He made it to nationals for cross country last fall and earned All-America honors after finishing in 27th place.
“The training is a lot different,” Nash said. “We do a lot more on the track, in the fall we’re running at the University Lake Dog Park a lot.”
He said another big difference is the number of competitors in the race. In cross country he will sometimes be competing against around 200 athletes while in track, it’s often at around 20.
Nash will be competing in the 10K on Thursday night and the 5K on Saturday night. He says the 5K is his best event but that the 10K can wind up being “anyone’s game.”
“That last mile, anyone can take it,” Nash said.
He says his favorite sport between the two is “definitely cross country” in large part due to the differences in terrain that he competes on.
“I try not to think about it too much when we’re in track season,” Nash said. “I love running on the trails and getting to run on the courses.”
There are no finals for the 10K and 5K, so they’re both just single races that Nash feels confident about performing well in.
“I have a lot of confidence in my ability to make sure that I got nothing left at the finish and put everything I got into the race,” Nash said.
This is also the first time that sophomore hurdler Joshua Wagner has made it to nationals and he will be competing in the 110-meter hurdles.
“It was a bit of a close one, but I made it in and am definitely excited for that,” Wagner said.
Wagner just made the cut for qualifying for nationals thanks in large part to his incredible showing at the GNAC championships where he was named the GNAC Male Track Athlete of the Meet after finishing first in both the 110- and 400-meter hurdles
“It kind of depends on the year, the event and how many they take,” Wagner said. “I was kind of on the edge of either I will make it or not, and I had to wait until basically the last minute.”
His strong finish to the season gave the native of Niederahr, Germany, momentum heading into nationals.
“It definitely gave me a lot of confidence that my last three races were probably the fastest I ran all season,” Wagner said. “I was really consistent at the end, and I hope to go even faster in the prelims.”