High and mighty

Emma Bianchi finished fifth in the high jump at the NAIA national track and field championship, becoming only the second All-American performer for Georgetown College  in the modern era. She matched the best finish for a Tiger in any event over that span.

Each year, coach Lucas Garnett has looked to put one more piece together for building the modern era of Georgetown College track and field. A huge part of that was him taking the reins full-time this past summer.

In one year as his sole focus, the Tigers saw their first ever competitors make nationals in indoor, several top five finishes — including the men’s team finishing second twice in outdoor, and the most competitors at outdoor nationals.

Cody Cooper, Maggie Mollak and Emma Bianchi represented GC with determination, pride and excellence from May 23-25. For Mollak and Bianchi, it was the second straight trip to nationals, while for Cooper it was the crowning achievement of a journey well spent.

Bianchi found her stride and rhythm in her third national — second for outdoor — becoming the second Tiger All-American) in modern era. Her fifth place finish ties the best at nationals in an event following the restart of the program.

The sophomore was one in a field of 35. 

Five were out at the first height. Seven more were gone following the second round. Only nine advanced to a fourth height of 1.70 meters. Bianchi’s personal best — a school record as well — is 1.67. 

She and five other competitors were unable to clear the 5-foot-7 bar. The judges went to tiebreakers for those, with fourth going to Alexis Dale, who cleared the previous three bars without a miss. Bianchi and two others each had to use a second jump at one of the three earlier rounds and thus all tied for fifth. The final two had an even number of misses as well and finished tied for eighth.

“Emma’s demeanor the few days leading up to her event was confident, yet calm, and I knew she was poised to do something special,” Garnett said. “You could see it in her face. She was going to get on the podium.

“All of these women were good. It was just a matter of who stepped up and took care of business. Emma was one of those that did.”

Mollak finished her Tiger career as one of the Top 20 nationally for shot put. Her Friday was rough, but the result was cause for celebration among everyone affiliated with GC track.

“Maggie didn’t have the day she wanted,” Garnett said. “However, she finished 19th and a Top 20 finish is always something of which to be proud.

“In building this program, our throwers have been our early focus and one of the strongest pieces in competitions, especially inside the conference. Maggie has been the backbone of that core over the past four seasons.”

Mollak finishes her career holding multiple school records in discus and shot put.

Cooper got all the energy rolling in the decathlon — a 10- event, two-day marathon to test every skill possible for track and field. 

After a school record, by more than 700 points, the senior found himself sitting 19th nationally. The NAIA only takes the top 16 competitors for decathlon.

In his final try before the cutoff for qualifications, the Kentucky native scored 5,859 points, topping his best by 35 and putting him exactly at 16th by seven points.

The first five events Thursday found him sitting 14th, but his resolve shined on day two. Cooper posted personal records in 110-meter hurdles and pole vault, while hitting his second best marks in discus, javelin and 1500-meter run. The final result, 11th nationally with a crushing of the GC record at 6,045 points.

“Coop completed three decathlons in four weeks. This is not something I would ever recommend, as the 10 events over two days are the most grueling competition in track and field, but when the senior was sitting just outside the bubble we had no choice,” Garnett said. 

“What he has accomplished the past four weeks is nothing short of incredible. He went from 4,005 points in his first decathlon five years ago to 6,045 points to cap off his career. I have never met a more dedicated athlete than Coop.”

Garnett is energized by the showing at nationals as he continues to sign quality athletes to round out the men’s and women’s track and field programs.

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