- Published on 17 April 2012
- Written by Andy McCallister
- Hits: 654
The two banners hang almost unnoticed these days. They’re a little bit like a couple well-worn and faded, but still comfortable pieces of furniture.
“NAIA National Champions, Outdoor Track and Field, 2001 Women’s Program,” (and beside it, another one for 2002), they proudly state, there on the east wall of Fuhrer Fieldhouse.
They commemorate not just the only national team championships ever won by Doane teams, but what could arguably be the proudest accomplishments in a grand history of Doane athletic endeavors stretching back a century and more.
This week, during the Doane Relays on Friday and Saturday, the Tiger women’s teams that caused those banners to become fieldhouse fixtures will return for a 10-year reunion to celebrate those times and to be inducted to Doane’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
On Sunday noon, a banquet will be held in the team’s honor, to be followed by the induction ceremony.
Ten and 11 years ago, it was clear that the Tiger women were going to be capable of scoring lots of points at the national meet, but national team titles, then and now, are something that just can’t be predicted.
There are just too many variables, and you can only control what you’re going to do.
And they certainly took control.
It took an extraordinary confluence of events, a string of heroic and unforgettable deeds, an incredible reservoir of talent coupled with desire, for Doane to win NAIA championships in those years.
This all came, remember, before the exodus of institutions with enrollments measuring in the thousands (with budgets in proportion) which migrated from the NAIA to the NCAA. Seen in that light, Doane’s accomplishments in 2001 and ’02 become even more mind-boggling.
What meant so much to those in the program following those seasons had to do with the way the championships were won. The hallmark of all NAIA Hall of Fame Coach Fred Beile teams — producing quality performances across all disciplines of the sport — had everything to do with those successes a decade ago.
Everywhere you looked during those three days of the national meet in Abbotsford, British Columbia 11 years ago, you saw Doane women doing something remarkable. Throws, jumps, distances, relays. There wasn’t anything contested, it seemed, that found Tigers excluded from the meet’s conversation.
But it was more than that.
It all went beyond the matter of outstanding performances that scored individual national titles, including one from Crete’s Nicole Stehlik, who won her second NAIA crown in the javelin throw.
In the end, it was a collection of almost transcendental efforts that scored a point here, a couple points there, that added up to the two banners hanging on the east wall of the fieldhouse.
In short, the lesson those teams offer to those that have followed was that there is no such thing as an unimportant or insignificant effort at a track and field meet.
Going into the 2001 meet’s final event, the 4x400-meter relay, Doane had to score two points — at least a seventh-place finish — to be assured of a share of the national title.
And so a David-and-Goliath struggle was about to unfold. The Doane women qualified for the final, barely, with the slowest time in the field.
Running against teams, many who had been able to “save” fresh athletes for the final, the Tiger women on that quartet were running in some cases their sixth, seventh, eighth (or more) races of the week.
After the first three legs of the relay from Julie Harms, Erin Gillespie and Susan Klitz, anchor carrier Wendy Brouillette took the baton in eighth place and had some work to do, trailing the seventh-place team by around 20 meters.
Brouilette, who the following year would set the 400-meter school record she still holds today, gradually worked her way closer and made up what was still a three-meter deficit in the final 10 meters of the race.
She outleaned the Park College anchor to take seventh place by 0.01 of a second. Two points for Doane. Oh, and a national championship, the first of two in a row.
Celebrate well, ladies.