Saffron Restaurants reservation Meet the HCC athletes competing in the NJCAA Division I Track & Field Championships

Meet the HCC athletes competing in the NJCAA Division I Track & Field Championships

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Here are the six Hagerstown Community College athletes who will compete this week at the NJCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in West Monroe, Louisiana, where the top eight finishers in each event will earn medals and All-American honors.

Gabby Cook

Year: Sophomore

Residence: Hagerstown

Event: Women’s high jump (Friday)

Personal record: 5 feet, 9 3/4 inches (school record)

Seed for the encounter: First

Comments: Cook, a 2022 Boonsboro graduate, won this year’s NJCAA title in the indoor high jump at 5-8, becoming HCC’s first national champion since 2013. She was the Maryland 1A state runner-up in the event as a senior for the Warriors at 5-0.

National champion: HCC’s Gabby Cook advances to NJCAA title

Target for nationals: “My goal for the national championships is to do better than the last one,” Cook said. “I really want to jump a new PR to end the season at HCC. The height goal would definitely be 1.80 meters (5 feet, 10 3/4 inches).”

Coach’s vision: “Gabby has an opportunity to do something very rare: win two national championships,” said HCC show jumping coach Andy Reid. “She is ready. She is confident. But she will have to jump well. It is not easy to win one, let alone two. She is the top seed, so the favorite, but only by an inch .”

Hagerstown Community College athletes will compete in the NJCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.  From left to right Michaela Carney, Mikaila Ek, Gabby Cook, Brayden Ecker and Rebecca Tellez.  Tommy Bildheiser is missing from the photo.Hagerstown Community College athletes will compete in the NJCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.  From left to right Michaela Carney, Mikaila Ek, Gabby Cook, Brayden Ecker and Rebecca Tellez.  Tommy Bildheiser is missing from the photo.

Hagerstown Community College athletes will compete in the NJCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. From left to right Michaela Carney, Mikaila Ek, Gabby Cook, Brayden Ecker and Rebecca Tellez. Tommy Bildheiser is missing from the photo.

Mikaila Ek

Year: Sophomore

Residence: Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

Event: Women’s pole vault (Thursday)

Personal record: 11 feet, 7 3/4 inches (school record)

Seed for the encounter: Sixth

Comments: Ek placed third at this year’s NJCAA indoor championships with 11-2 1/4, breaking her own indoor school record. She then set the outdoor school record at 11-7 3/4 on April 20 at the Hopkins Loyola Invitational. Ek finished fourth at the outdoor nationals last spring.

Target for nationals: “I definitely want to get to 12 feet. That’s my height goal,” Ek said. “I want to jump high. Second place would be great.”

Coach’s vision: “She’s getting ready for PR again,” Reid said. “We just put her on another pole that should help her PR. She’s physically ready, and she’s mentally ready.”

Fits perfectly: New HCC athletic director Amy Sterner is in her natural habitat with the Hawks

Brayden Ecker

Year: Sophomore

Residence: Frederick, MD.

Event: Men’s pole vault (Thursday)

Personal record: 15 feet, 9 inches (school record)

Seed for the encounter: Tied for fifth place

Comments: Ecker placed fifth at this year’s NJCAA indoor championships with 15-4 1/2, setting an indoor school record. He then set the outdoor college record at 15-9 at Shippensburg University on April 27.

Target for nationals: “If all goes well, I could definitely see a top three finish,” Ecker said. “If everything goes really well for me and some people aren’t having their best day, I could see winning. That would obviously be a fantastic goal to achieve. … I could see very well 5 meters (16-4 3/4) realistically, and if it goes to 5.05 meters (16-6 3/4), that would be possible.”

Coach’s vision: “Brayden has an opportunity to do something that is very rare in the world of pole vaulting,” Reid said. “He’s about to break two very hallowed marks for the pole vault: 16 feet and 5 meters (16-4 3/4). I know he’s ready, and I think he has a chance to to win.”

Tommy Bildheiser

Tommy BildheiserTommy Bildheiser

Tommy Bildheiser

Year: Sophomore

Residence: Lebanon, Pa.

Event: 3,000 Men’s Steeplechase (Friday)

Personal record: 9:44.97

Seed for the encounter: 22nd

Comments: Bildheiser, who will be making his fourth appearance at an NJCAA national championship, qualified for a new event this spring. In his only attempt at the 3,000 steeplechase at the Region 20 Championships on May 1, Bildheiser placed first in 9:44.97, beating the qualifying time by 5.24 seconds.

Target for nationals: “I want to try to win medals. That’s the main goal,” Bildheiser said. “I’m hoping I can run 9:30 or faster. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a fun event, and not many guys want to do it.”

Coach’s vision: “Steeplechase is one of those events that you’re either good at or you’re not,” said HCC head coach Mike Spinnler. “There’s not really a middle ground. I’ve seen a lot of guys who weren’t good at it. Tommy is a natural. He’s one of those guys who has both speed and athleticism.”

Rebecca Tellez

Year: Freshman

Residence: Hagerstown

Events: Women’s 10,000 (Thursday) and 5,000 (Saturday)

Personal records: 40:38.00 for the 10,000 and 18:51.48 for the 5,000

Seeds for the meeting: 20th in the 10,000 and 28th in the 5,000

Comments: Tellez, a 2022 South Hagerstown graduate, was a standout runner for the Rebels. This is her second year at HCC, but her first year in a row for the Hawks.

Target for nationals: “I’m not so sure, just because I’m at the bottom of qualifying,” Tellez said. “I’m really excited about this experience. I think my goal is to just finish and say I tried. We’ll see what happens.”

Coach’s vision: “It’s a great honor for Rebecca to be there,” Spinnler said. “She didn’t make it indoors, and this time last year she was out of the sport. Here she is now, running the 10,000 and 5,000 at the nationals. She has schools offering her scholarship packages. So much has changed in the last seven, eight months.”

Michaela Carney

Year: Freshman

Residence: Scherpsburg

Event: Women’s pole vault (Thursday)

Personal record: 10 feet, 6 inches

Seed for the encounter: 17th

Comments: Carney, a 2023 Boonsboro graduate, went 9-6 to win the Class 1A state title in the girls pole vault last spring. At this year’s NJCAA indoor championships, she placed 12th at 10-2 1/2.

Coach’s vision: “I’m hoping for a PR,” Reid said. “I’d like to see her jump 10 feet. She’s progressing, and that’s what she needs to do. As a freshman, you just want to get that exposure and have that experience of attending that national competition. She got that experience indoors, so she shouldn’t be so nervous this time. Now we’re looking for her to make that next level jump – 10 feet, 11-6.

This article originally appeared in The Herald-Mail: Hagerstown Community College participates in NJCAA national track and field competition