University of Saint Mary track and field coach David Dominguez described Friday as one of the best days in USM track history. Seniors Nick Haines and Brooks Ballou each broke school records and recorded national qualifying marks at the Occidental Distance Carnival in Los Angeles.
"They just rose to the occasion," Dominguez said. "They ran fantastic. It's kind of a coaches dream to have them perform when it counts like that."
Haines ran the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9:13, while Ballou ran the 10k in 30:52. The times qualify them to the NAIA Track and Field Outdoor Championships on May 22 in Gulf Shores, Ala.
It was Haines' first event since breaking his foot at the same meet last year.
"Whenever you haven't ran in a long time, it's kind of hard to really get confident and psyched up because you are always nervous," Haines said. "You aren't really sure how it's going to go, but as soon as the gun goes off, all that goes away and you're just focused on competition."
Haines said he just went into the race with a "do my best" mentality.
"I really didn't have any expectations," he said. "I was just going in and knew I was going to go in and do my best and I was going to be happy with whatever the outcome was."
The outcome was a school record that could have been faster if he didn't stumble after not qhite clearing one of the barriers.
"I hit it with my knee on my trail leg and what ended up happening was that slowed me down and threw me kind of out of balance, so I stumbled a couple of steps," Haines said.
Haines said he's had a couple of stress fractures and hamstring problems in the past as well, but the broken foot put his track career in doubt.
"If you would have asked me six months ago if I ever thought I was going to run again, I would have told you probably not," he said. "Every day is a gift and I take it as that because I've had so many injuries and this one was so serious that I wasn't sure I was going to run again. Luckily I had a lot of good people on my side and good medical professionals to really help me get back to where I wanted to be."
For Ballou, it was the second week in a row breaking a school record. Ballou broke the school record in the 5,000-meter run at the NAIA Track and Field Indoor Championships the week before.
He finished 16th in the race and said the indoor season helped him get a fast start to the outdoor season, but the training will change for the rest of the season.
"Basically we are going to pick my mileage back up," Ballou said. "I was only going 60 miles a week during indoor season because, while I can't make my body have more fast-switch muscles, training at a faster pace and going a shorter distance, I can kind of teach them to be faster.
"Now that the race is getting longer again, I'm going to pick my mileage up to about 100 miles a week and slow my pace down a little bit."
Since Ballou is a distance runner, he has more slow-twitch muscles rather than fast-twich ones that sprinters have. He said the 10k and the half-marathon are his favorite events because he's trained his muscles for distance, rather than speed.
"Whatever I can do, I can do it for a long time," he said. But I can't really go very fast. The 5K almost becomes like a sprint for me."
Since both runners already qualified for the national meet, Dominguez said much of the remaining outdoor season will be dedicated to training rather than events.
"I don't want to over due it," he said. "We are just going to shut it down and go back into training mode."