TERRE HAUTE —
You know an athlete is special when figuring out how many championships he or she has won takes a few seconds.
Rose-Hulman high-jumper Liz Evans is starting to fall into that category.
On March 9 at Grinnell, Iowa, the Bicknell junior cleared a school-record 5 feet, 101⁄2 inches to win the NCAA Division III women’s indoor championship. That earned Evans a third NCAA title (two indoor and one outdoor) and a fifth All-American honor (factoring in her indoor and outdoor runner-up finishes in 2010).
Also worth noting, 5-101⁄2 would have placed eighth in the NCAA Division I nationals if Evans had competed there.
“That’s quite an accomplishment for a little gal from Bicknell, Ind.,” Rose-Hulman track coach Larry Cole remarked.
From the Rose men’s squad, Sutton Coleman has not captured a national crown yet, but he’s getting close. At the same NCAA indoor meet at Grinnell, the senior from Lebanon, Va., placed second in the men’s 60-meter hurdles in a school-record time of 8.01 seconds.
Coleman’s previous highest NCAA finish was fourth in the 2011 outdoor 400-meter hurdles. Like Evans, this was his fifth All-American honor.
Both trail former pole-vaulter Andrew Schipper (1999-2003) by one for the most All-American awards in the school’s track and field history and both plan to tie it at the NCAA outdoor nationals May 24-26 at Claremont, Calif.
But neither plans to do much at the season-opening Rose-Hulman Early Bird Invitational this Saturday at the William Welch Track and Field Complex because they’re more focused on training.
They’ll be following a routine based in consistency, which both attribute for much of their success.
“We have the same workout routine every week,” Coleman told the Tribune-Star. “I think our success is really a testament to the coaches’ programs. They really put in a lot of work and really know what works best for us.”
“In general, every week is the same,” noted Evans, whose routine usually includes neuromuscular training Monday, general strength Tuesday, jump and run Tuesday or Wednesday (depending on whether the next meet is Friday or Saturday) and warmups and light weightlifting Thursday and Friday.
Larry Cole and his son/assistant coach, Matt Cole, also praised the practice and meet habits of Evans and Coleman.
“The thing that’s been so impressive about Liz since she left North Knox High School [in 2009] is her consistency,” Larry Cole emphasized. “That’s the key in the field events. It’s a key in any track event, but in field events even more so. She jumped 5-10 or better four times this indoor season and that was above her personal best coming into the season. She really stepped it up and consistently jumped well. Her and Sutton are both athletes who never seem to have a bad meet.”
“Sutton’s very consistent,” Matt Cole pointed out. “He comes to practice every day and works hard, like Liz. They’re both very consistent. He does a good job of working hard and doing everything he’s asked to do. He improves week by week every year.”
Using that consistent approach, Evans and Coleman were able to improve throughout the indoor season and perform at or close to their potential at the recent indoor nationals.
“Liz was the underdog going in this time,” Matt Cole mentioned. “Shelby Demos [a junior from Wisconsin-Whitewater] was ranked above her and Liz knew that going in. She really took that on as a personal challenge to step up and say that she was the best. She was there to get her crown again.
“Liz had an outstanding meet. She jumped perfect … no misses until her final bar [when she already had clinched the NCAA title]. That’s Elizabeth. She’s a hard worker.”
“They both compete at the highest level at the biggest meets of the year,” Larry Cole said of the Engineers’ top track athletes in recent memory. “Liz went in with the idea that she was going to win the competition. She’s a very confident young lady. Her and Matt talked about starting heights and she went in at 5-7. She hit it on her first attempt. She went to the next height and hit that on her first attempt. She was clean clear through the competition until they both went out at 5-11.”
“I use all my other competitions throughout the season to practice for the national meet,” Evans explained. “For each one, I prepare the same way. Through all of that, I try my hardest to get every single jump on the first try. At this last national meet, it came through and I ended up winning.”
“The most stressful time is the prelims, trying to get into the final race,” Coleman said from a hurdler’s perspective. “Once you make the finals, it’s kind of anybody’s ballgame. Everybody is close, within a few hundredths of a second… I thought it was a great race. The winner was a little bit too far outside for me to see. He was a couple lanes outside of me. But I was pleased with the race. It was a lot of fun.”
“Sutton’s goal was always to be an All-American,” Matt Cole added. “But this year, we really focused on winning it. This was the year we wanted to win the national title. We really had to convince him that he could do it, that he is that elite-level athlete. I think he knows it, but I’m not sure he believed it.”
Evans missed three attempts at 5-11, a height that she hopes to put in her rear-view mirror during the 2012 outdoor season.
“I was close on my first attempt,” she recalled. “My second attempt … that was not even close. The third one was when I already found out I was national champion, so I was too happy to focus on all the little details I needed to do.”
For Evans to clear 5-11 in the future, she admitted that she’ll need to get stronger, which means more time spent in the weightroom. That won’t be difficult for Evans because she lifted three times a week on campus last summer and she enjoyed it.
The Coles indicated Evans and Coleman aren’t likely to see much serious action for the next few weeks because both want to stay fresh so their seasons can last through May.
“Liz will be ready to go by the end of April,” Matt Cole promised. “The whole month of May is when I’m looking for her to hit some good bars again.”
“It’s up to the coaches,” Coleman said of his chances for early-season participation. “I’ll do whatever they tell me to do. Whatever they have in store for me, I’m willing to do.”
Coleman realizes that following the coaches’ advice will be his most likely way to finish his career with an NCAA title — his best chance being in the 400 hurdles.
“It’s gonna be kinda like the last hurrah,” assessed Coleman, who has accepted a job with Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in Los Angeles. “This is the last time I get to run outdoor track. I’m going to work hard for the outdoor season and hopefully give myself another chance to win a championship. That’s the goal right now.
“Track might be over for me after that.”