Before kicking off their outdoor season last weekend, one chapter of the winter remained for third-year Appie Hirve, who was representing the Maroons at nationals. As Chicago’s sole participant in the meet, Hirve capitalized on her opportunity.
Competing at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships March 15 in Ohio, Hirve placed fourth in the triple jump, earning All-American status and capping off her season as a star of the UAA-champion women’s track team.
Seeded 10th before competition, and needing to place in the top eight to take All-American honors, Hirve had her work cut out for her.
In the second flight of preliminaries, however, Hirve put up a surprise 11.45-meter jump that easily sent her into the finals, seeded only behind second-year Kristen Bates of Messiah and eventual champion Shannon O’Keeffe, a third-year from SUNY Brockport, who won with a jump of 11.7 meters.
“I refused to look at what anyone from the first flight jumped,” said Hirve, “or what the people in my flight were jumping. When I finally put down a good jump, my coach told me I was sitting in third and I thought he was lying to me.”
After this early success, Hirve couldn’t improve on her first result in the finals, and watched third-year Danielle Wadlington from rival Wash U creep up from behind her to take second as Hirve’s 11.45 meter attempt was bumped to fourth place. Despite not making the podium, the All-American accolades were enough for the Maroon standout.
“It was a surreal experience,” said Hirve, “the type of honor that I’ve been striving for since high school, but never truly expected to actually walk away with.”
The pressures of the national stage and the added stress of competing right before finals could have weighed heavily on Hirve, but she credits her success to tuning out the white noise.
“It’s hard to realize how much the different attitude and environment really affects your performance,” said Hirve. “The athletes are basically quarantined, chaperoned everywhere; there are giant video cameras all around, not to mention the pressure and mental games you start playing with yourself just because you’re at such an intimidating level of competition. Most people just cave under pressure. I think my training paid off in that I trusted my body and didn’t let external factors hurt me.”
Looking to continue her success in the outdoors, Hirve placed third in the long jump at the team’s spring debut last Saturday. She takes off again at the Chicagolands in Naperville this weekend.