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Dragon 4×800 Relay Wins National Championship


By Hutchinson CC Sports Information


TOPEKA, Kan. – Through a bizarre set of circumstances, the Hutchinson Community College women’s 4×800-meter relay team celebrated a national championship on Saturday.


The relay team of freshmen Gracie LambertTaylor HoskinsonEllie Van Zelfden and Serenity Larson stood atop of the 2023 NJCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships award podium at the Washburn University Indoor Events Center after more than an hour after the event was completed following a series of protests by other relay teams.

The ruling by the Championship Games Committee was that the other teams in the heat – Fort Scott, New Mexico Junior College, Southeastern, South Plains, Mesa and Cloud County – were disqualified for not running the proper amount of laps. Each leg of the relay runs four laps.

The confusion occurred during the third leg of the race.

After two laps by the third-leg runners, the anchor runners for each team were instructed to take their places for the final exchange. With the Blue Dragons running sixth at the time, Van Zelfden recognized she still had one more lap remaining.

While the other teams made their handoffs, Van Zelfden refused to hand the baton to Larson, ran past her and properly completed her final lap before handing off to the Dragon anchor runner.

Larson finished the final lap of her leg as the only runner on the track as the other teams completed the race one lap short of the required 16 laps.

Following more than an hour of discussion and an official protest, the Blue Dragons claimed their first national championship since Adriana Janic won the high jump and pentathlon in 2018 and became the first Blue Dragon relay national champion since the 2005 Distance Medley Relay team won a national title.

Lost in all the confusion was the fact that Lambert, Hoskinson, Van Zelfden and Larson set a school record for the event with a time of 9 minutes, 42.96 seconds. The old record was 9:47.77 set in 1993.

The 4×800 relay wasn’t the only school record to fall on Saturday.

Lambert, running in the finals of the 800 meters, placed ninth but broke the 1993 record of Lori Taney. Lambert posted a school-record time of 2:19.73.

Freshman Maddie Hernandez posted a PR in the high jump on Saturday. Hernandez tied for eighth on Saturday with a career-best clearance of 5-5.25 (1.66m). That ties for the fourth-best high jump mark in Blue Dragon career history.

The Blue Dragons completed the 2023 Indoor Championships with 11.5 points, which was good for 15th place. New Mexico Junior College rolled to the team title with 116 points. Cloud County was second with 84.5 points and South Plains was third with 83.5 points.

The Blue Dragons open the 2023 outdoor season on Saturday, March 25 with the Mark A Phillips invitational in Arkansas City.