Ahead of the NAIA National Outdoor Championships on May 28, William Woods rookie Ellie Dimond placed 21st of 22 competitors in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She ran away as an All-American.
Dimond finished sixth at the national championships to become the first American female runner in William Woods history. Her time was 11: 17.80 – a new personal best and a program record.
While at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Dimond said she knew she was a great distance runner. She was state qualified for the Class 4 Cross Country State Championships, where she finished 33rd and contributed to a second place team, and raced the distance track events.
Rock Bridge is also where Dimond first discovered steeplechase, she said, after her coaches told her to give it a try because she had a background in hurdles in college. Dimond said she fits in perfectly, impressing her coaches and making her want more. Entering her freshman season at William Woods this year, Dimond said she expressed interest to her coaches in participating in the steeplechase after finding out it was a free event.
The steeplechase originated in 19th century England and got its name from when British men clashed from church steeple to church steeple, leaping over low walls and small rivers along path. This experiment is simulated with five barriers, four that Dimond says look like a gymnastic balance beam and one in front of a water pit that runners jump over, trying not to land in the deep end near the wall to avoid being slowed down. The race became an Olympic event for men in 1920, but women will have to wait until 2008.
Dimond said steeplechase is a skill combination of events she has competed in in the past. It has the long distance running cross country and long distance track events such as the 1500 meter race and has the hurdles as what is needed to compete in the 400 meter hurdles. Together, Dimond said you have an event that requires a lot of stamina and form to break through all the barriers.
“Cross country and the track season go hand in hand,” said Dimond. “Cross country works the endurance side and the track helps your speed side.”
In addition to losing a season on the track to the pandemic, Dimond said she needed to build up her endurance before her first college chase as she went from five laps in high school to seven and a half laps in the ‘university. This meant that she would have to cross the barriers a few times during a race, so Dimond said she had to get used to it in an event that could already be “super tiring”, especially after the jump into the water, which Dimond consider it the hardest part. .
She said she was also not sure if her speed would be above average, then heard from her trainer after her first run that she was four seconds off the NAIA B standard – the minimum time needed for move on to national championships. Knowing this, Dimond hit the standard on his second outing, but didn’t try it again until the national championships after stretching his knee in the same race.
Meanwhile, Dimond said she had to wait for her knee to heal so she could cross the water jump, in particular, without feeling any pain. Also during this period, the remainder of the 22 women’s peloton would be reserved for nationals, with Dimond placing second-to-last.
Before the preliminary races, she said she was “a nervous wreck all day” with her races around 9pm being the only thing she could think of. Dimond said she wasn’t sure how she would fare, but the nerves would gradually fade after being on the track and chatting with the other girls and her coaches. She got really comfortable after her first race, where she placed 12th overall to advance to the final, and thought it was possible to finish as an All-American.
“It gave me so much courage that every time I entered the final race I was like, ‘OK, I got it. I can get eighth place, ”said Dimond. “It was a very beautiful day. “
Now that the first season of Dimond at William Woods is in the books, she said she was “very impressed” with what she was able to accomplish. She would also like to be an All-American in cross country. Dimond was the Owls’ top player at the 2019 national cross country championships, but was eight spots from the top 40, the threshold to be an All-American.
Expectations are higher now as she continues her track career, Dimond said, so she hopes she can outperform her previous seasons.
“I have a lot to do now,” she said. “I set the bar really high so I hope I can beat it every year. “