Distance shines at indoor track nationals


Chris Pittner, Men’s Sports journalist

This weekend, the UW-Whitewater Track and Field team made the trip to Birmingham, Alabama, to compete in the National Indoor Track and Field Championships. In these events, the men’s team finished 8th overall with multiple All-American finishes. 

The headline performance of the weekend for the Warhawks is the effort put forth by Christian Patzka in the 5K. Patzka not only captured the individual title in the race, he also shattered the Division III record in the process, finishing in a blazing 13:47.01, six seconds faster than the previous record.

Patzka ran a very tactically sound race, starting in fourth, and remaining in third for around the first two miles of the race. However, his last mile was his fastest, as he clocked a speedy 4:14 to pull away and secure the record and the win. 

“He (Patzka) is on a different level than everyone else, he does different workouts and has different goals that are faster than anyone else on the team. He dominated the field in the 5k and ran the 3k today and took fourth,” teammate Chris Allen said. 

Patzka also attempted the 5k and 3k double, which is difficult for olympians to attempt due to the strain each one of the races puts on the body, and finished fourth. 

Joining Patzka with All-American honors this weekend was another distance runner, junior Justin Krause. Krause competed in the mile run, and he finished in fourth with a time of 4:07.76, which was a personal record for him. Krause’s impact on the team, however, goes far beyond what he does on and off the track.

“He is a great leader, he’s one of those people you can come to for anything, the cross country team is very tight knit, the whole team is essentially, his role is to lead the team,” Allen said. 

In addition to the distance runners, Shelvin Garett II became an All-American in the triple jump this weekend, as he leaped his way to a fifth place finish with a jump of 48 feet, 8.75 inches. This was Garett’s second time earning All-American honors, as he finished third last year. 

Other performers include Gunner Schlender, who joined Christian Patzka in the 5K, Schlender finished ninth, a mere one spot away from All-American honors. Schlender finished the race with a time of 14:23.2. In the triple jump, Brayden Zettle jumped 47 feet 3.5 inches to finish 13th. Marlon Cystrunk also competed in the 60m hurdles, and ran a time of 8.39 seconds, which was good for a 19th place finish

In addition to the athletes who earned honors over the weekend, assistant coach Jeff Miller, who coaches the distance team and is also head coach of the cross country team, earned Assistant Coach of the year in the North Region.

Miller has been coaching for the track and cross country programs for 41 years, and according to Allen, he does it for fun. Miller is also much more than a coach, he is a mentor to the team and someone they can lean on. 

“He’s just a great coach, you can talk to him about anything. He gives you advice on goals, we focus on getting quality miles in rather than quantity. The workouts challenge you and push you to get better, they get you used to the difficult paces that you will be running at in the races,” Allen said. 

Miller’s approach appears to be working, as the distance squad appears to be challenging for All-American nods for years to come, with tons of up and coming talent in the program. 

From here, the Warhawks will move into outdoor season, and their first outdoor meet will be at UW-Platteville on April 1st. The first chance to catch the Warhawks in Whitewater will be Friday, April 7th, for the Rex Foster Twilight meet, located at the Rex Foster track.