Former Interstate 35 standout Maddie Beeler felt at home here last weekend, running at the Drake Relays for the University of Northern Iowa.
The UNI junior ran on the Panthers’ 4×400 and 4×200 relay teams at the Drake Relays on Friday.
Courtesy Scott Vickerost-Oceola Sentinel
“I’m always just so blessed to be here,” Beeler said. “I know some people who don’t run in college don’t have this opportunity anymore. I’m just so happy to come back and run for my home crowd and do my best.”
Do her best is exactly what Beeler did Friday afternoon in the 4×400 relay.
Beeler took the handoff from teammate Darian Samuelson, who ran the leadoff leg, and ran a big second leg for the Panthers. Beeler used a strong finish in the final 100 meters to pick off a couple of places in the second heat.
She split a 55.1 for the Panthers, who ended up sixth in the heat and 19th overall out of the 27-team field.
“I’ve been working on that last part. It’s just got to get a little stronger each time and it gets a little easier,” Beeler said about her finish. “I felt pretty strong. To be honest, we didn’t get much of a warmup, because they kind of brought us down there pretty quick. So I didn’t have much time to think about it. Just went out there and did it. It’s kind of a blur, really.”
Northern Iowa ran 3:45.05 as a team. Joining Beeler on the relay were Samuelson, Jennifer Roberts and Holly Salzbrenner. That time currently ranks the Panthers third in the Missouri Valley Conference.
It marked just the second time this outdoor season the Panthers have run that 4×400 quartet.
“We’ve only run the 4×400 twice yet this year,” Beeler said. “We wanted to hit 3:45 today. It’s a huge season best. We’ve kind of been playing with the order a little bit, but I think we’ve finally found one that works, so we’re all very pleased. We just put it all out there, so we’re very pleased.”
Beeler also ran on UNI’s 11th-place 4×200 relay team, which ran 1:41.05. She ran the leadoff leg for that relay.
After going through a rough indoor season in which she dealt with several minor injuries, Beeler said she’s rounding into form during the outdoor season.
“Indoor season was a little bit tough, because I kind of battled some minor injuries, so I think I’m really hitting my stride in outdoor season and staying healthy,’ she said. “With that bigger track, it’s always nice, too. Outdoor season has been going really well so far. I’ve been hitting season’s best every time, so just on my way to a new PR, I guess.”
Beeler ran a 56.5 in the 400 meter dash the previous weekend at Indiana State University.
With three weeks left until the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Championships, Beeler hopes to keep improving her times so she can accomplish her goals.
“Obviously, we’d like to make top three in the conference (on the 4×400 relay),” Beeler said. “That’s what we always like to do, is work hard and try to get on that podium for that. I’d like to make finals in the 400 as an individual.”
The Panthers travel to the Musco Invitational Saturday in Iowa City and then host the Messersmith Invitational on May 8. The MVC Outdoor Championships are May 15-17 in Bloomington, Ill.
Former Clarke state and Drake Relays champion Sarah Pate is also a member of the University of Northern Iowa track and field team.
Pate, a redshirt freshman, finished second in the discus competition at the Gibson Invite in Terra Haute, Ind., on April 17, throwing 150-1, which ranks her fifth all-time in UNI history. She also threw 174-0 for sixth place in the hammer throw.