April 01, 2023

SWCC’s Venteicher earns All-American honors

TOPEKA, Kansas - Southwestern Community College sophomore Molly Venteicher finished sixth Saturday in the women’s weight throw competition at the NJCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, earning All-America honors.

Venteicher, a 2021 graduate of CAM High School, becomes SWCC track & field’s third women’s All-American in program history. She joins Elenani Tinai (heptathlon, 2019) and Fane Sauvakacolo (pentathlon, 2021; heptathlon, 2021) as the only women’s track & field athletes to achieve a top-8 finish at the NJCAA National Championships.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Molly for how hard she battled Saturday to earn All-American,” said Scott Vicker, director of cross country/track & field. “She had to bounce back mentally after a disappointing finish the previous day in the shot put, and I’m proud of her for not letting that hold her back on Saturday. When I recruited Molly, I told her we would get her photo on the (All-American) wall. Saturday, that promise came true.”

Venteicher qualified to finals of the weight throw in eighth place. The final thrower of the competition in prelims, Venteicher’s first throw went 15.01 meters. After surviving the final two throwers who had a chance to knock her out of finals, Venteicher improved on her final throw of prelims with a throw of 15.30 meters. Her first throw of finals went 15.80 meters, which ended up as her best throw of the competition, and vaulted her into sixth place.

Venteicher, who had been the most consistent thrower in the nation all season long, was one of only two competitors in the field to get all six of her throws in bounds, and was the only thrower to go over 15 meters on five of six attempts. She came into Saturday’s competition ranked sixth nationally in the event and held her place.

“Molly did a great job of throwing consistent on Saturday, just as she has done all year long,” Vicker said. “She came up just 10 cm short of matching her season’s best throw, so she was right in line with her best performances. She has worked so hard to get to this point. Last year, she threw 12.83 meters and we were happy with that mark. She came out of the gates firing this year and blew that mark out of the water. Every single week she came up big for us. She has shown what can be achieved here at Southwestern.”

Venteicher also competed in the shot put on Friday evening, finishing in 10th place with a throw of 12.17 meters. She came up one spot short of qualifying for finals of the event, matching her placing from last year’s outdoor national championships.

Southwestern finished in a tie for 29th place with 3 points in the women’s team scores thanks to Venteicher’s sixth-place finish.

For the Spartan men, Justin Cunningham was the top finisher of the meet by matching his seed in the 60 meter dash. Cunningham came in ranked 15th and matched that placing in Friday’s prelims of the 60 meter dash, running 6.82 seconds. Later in the evening, he finished 27th in the 200 meter dash prelims in 22.42.

“A lot of people would be thrilled with a 15th-place finish at nationals,” Vicker said. “But Justin had bigger goals than finishing 15th. We felt he had a strong chance at qualifying for finals and being in the top eight. The thing about the 60 meter dash, though, is there is zero room for error in a 6-second race. I didn’t think Justin got off to as good of a start out of the blocks as he normally does, and you could tell he was pressing at the end of the race to try to make up for that. It’s tough when you get to nationals and that’s the first time you have an off race. But I’m incredibly proud of Justin for how much he’s grown this year. His school record in the 60 meters is going to stand for a long time.”

Freshman Chase Oates entered Friday’s 1,000 meter prelims seeded 25th. Oates picked up his third school record of the indoor season and improved to 17th place with his time of 2:34.00. He broke the previous school record of 2:34.88, set by Phil Selmer in 2019.

Oates ran a perfectly-executed race, biding his time at the back of the pack and then moving his way up on the final lap. He had to shoot the gap between two competitors on the final straight, and was able to pull the move off without interfering with either of the other runners.

“Chase ran as good of a race as he could have from an execution standpoint,” Vicker said. “We wanted to come through the 600 meter mark in 90-91 seconds, and he hit 91 seconds. From there, it was all about holding on for dear life. Chase ran two 31-second laps back-to-back to close out the race. He ran a PR of 2:02.8 through 800 meters, and was still able to finish the race strong. This race gave him a lot of confidence as we get ready to go into the outdoor season.”

The Spartan 4x400 relay team of Robert Norton, Jonathon Hackett, Ben Olson, and Cunningham came into the meet seeded 22nd. The Spartans ran a season’s best time by 1.67 seconds and moved up to 21st in the country.

“These four guys gave it everything they had,” Vicker said. “Robert gave us the lead after the first leg of the relay, and Hackett got out hard for us. Western Texas’ 47-second 400 runners were too much for us to overcome to win the heat, and they ended up putting a good gap on us, but Ben and Justin did a good job of keeping Garden City and NIACC behind us. The guys really wanted to break the school record in the relay, and they gave it a good run.”

Southwestern returns to the track on Saturday, March 25, at the Viking Relays, hosted by Grand View University.