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Hawks trio take NJCAA national stage again

Hawks trio take NJCAA national stage again

For the second straight year, Michael Belcher and Tiffany Warnick will represent Hagerstown Community College at the NJCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Belcher and Warnick will be joined by freshman Micaela Fleetwood as the trio — who all competed at the NJCAA Indoor Championships in March — are set to begin competition Thursday at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex in El Dorado, Kansas. 

Warnick and Fleetwood are set to compete in the women's heptathlon, while Belcher will compete in the men's discus. 

 

"I see this as kind of a job interview-type situation," said HCC coach Mike Spinnler. "Go out there with a lot of schools across the different levels looking to fill out their rosters and give their scholarship money to."

After finishing 14th last spring, Warnick earned All-American honors with a seventh-place finish in the pentathlon indoors. She enters the heptathlon seeded 10th in the field of 16 competitors.

The event consists of the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200, long jump, javelin and 800.

"Last year I just wanted to get the experience and get a feel for it," Warnick said. "I know what to expect this year and I think my results will be a lot better."

Warnick earned her qualifying mark of 3,672 points at the McDaniel College Twilight meet on April 25. Unlike the usual structure for the competition, all seven events were done in one day due the late addition of the heptathlon to the meet.

"Going back-to-back in some events actually helped me," Warnick said. "I was already warmed up for some events and I feel like going back-to-back helped me stay in the zone more."

The path to nationals hasn't been easy for Warnick. The sophomore has dealt with injuries as well as the passing of her mother during the season.

"I kind of just want to go out there and do it for her," Warnick said. "She always went to my meets and I really want to do well for her."

Fleetwood enters the competition ranked 13th with a score of 3,502 points. At indoor nationals, she finished 13th in the pentathlon.  

"It was definitely an experience considering I was still new to everything," Fleetwood said of indoors. "Just seeing all the talent was kind of like, 'Woah,' but it was cool to be there. I don't want to say it was like a reality check, but along the lines of it."

Fleetwood was primarily a sprinter in high school at North Hagerstown, but made the jump to multis when she began at HCC. 

"In high school there was never really one thing I thought I was good at," Fleetwood said. "I was like decent at the stuff I did, so I think both the heptathlon and pentathlon are good because you get to put it all together."

The toughest adjustment for Fleetwood has been the long jump, as well being mentally prepared for the 800, which is the final event.

"Long jump, for some reason I kind of have this mental wall that I'm slowly getting over," Fleetwood said. "The 800 is tough, too, but I wasn't really slapped in the face by it because I did it in high school."

Fleetwood credits mental toughness as the main key to her success in her first year doing multis.

 

"You can't just go through the motions, you have to put it all out there," Fleetwood said. "In order to really do that, you have be willing to give it your all and really show your gutsiness." 

After finishing 10th in the discus a year ago, Belcher returns to competition seeded 15th with a best throw of 153-3. Belcher is just 6 1/2 inches behind the sixth seed.

"Last year I didn't know what to expect," Belcher said. "I got to learn the meet strategy. I went in and just tried to throw it as hard and far as possible each time. This year I've tried to take it steady throughout."

"Those 15 guys that are going to be there, it's going to be about who handles the pressure situation the best," Spinnler said. "It's not about what you do to get there, it's what you do there that matters."

Belcher was a double qualifier last year, finishing 16th in the shot put. This year, Belcher decided to solely work on the discus. 

"I just kind of stopped shot and decided to focus on discus," Belcher said. "Since then, it's gotten a lot better. I've really been working on my speed and control in practice."

Belcher enters with two goals in mind: Achieve a 50-meter throw (164 feet) and finish in an All-American spot (top eight).

"If I can get 50 meters, it should be good enough to get top eight," he said. "I'm very confident I can do it. Last year, I went in 18th and finished 10th. The key is to not think too much and just fling it. I know what I'm capable of it, it's just a matter of doing it."

Accompanying the Hawks to nationals is assistant coach Andy Reid, who was the head coach from 2004-08. Spinnler credits Reid for helping all the athletes develop in all areas of the sport, especially in the multis and throws.

"Coach Reid is just such a big reason in helping these kids get to this level," Spinnler said. "Both Micaela and Tiffany have improved immensely in the throws under his tutelage. He coaches multi athletes, has for decades, and he's gotten great improvement out of them."

season.

"I kind of just want to go out there and do it for her," Warnick said. "She always went to my meets and I really want to do well for her."

Fleetwood enters the competition ranked 13th with a score of 3,502 points. At indoor nationals, she finished 13th in the pentathlon.  

"It was definitely an experience considering I was still new to everything," Fleetwood said of indoors. "Just seeing all the talent was kind of like, 'Woah,' but it was cool to be there. I don't want to say it was like a reality check, but along the lines of it."

Fleetwood was primarily a sprinter in high school at North Hagerstown, but made the jump to multis when she began at HCC. 

"In high school there was never really one thing I thought I was good at," Fleetwood said. "I was like decent at the stuff I did, so I think both the heptathlon and pentathlon are good because you get to put it all together."

The toughest adjustment for Fleetwood has been the long jump, as well being mentally prepared for the 800, which is the final event.

"Long jump, for some reason I kind of have this mental wall that I'm slowly getting over," Fleetwood said. "The 800 is tough, too, but I wasn't really slapped in the face by it because I did it in high school."

Fleetwood credits mental toughness as the main key to her success in her first year doing multis.

 

"You can't just go through the motions, you have to put it all out there," Fleetwood said. "In order to really do that, you have be willing to give it your all and really show your gutsiness." 

After finishing 10th in the discus a year ago, Belcher returns to competition seeded 15th with a best throw of 153-3. Belcher is just 6 1/2 inches behind the sixth seed.

"Last year I didn't know what to expect," Belcher said. "I got to learn the meet strategy. I went in and just tried to throw it as hard and far as possible each time. This year I've tried to take it steady throughout."

"Those 15 guys that are going to be there, it's going to be about who handles the pressure situation the best," Spinnler said. "It's not about what you do to get there, it's what you do there that matters."

Belcher was a double qualifier last year, finishing 16th in the shot put. This year, Belcher decided to solely work on the discus. 

"I just kind of stopped shot and decided to focus on discus," Belcher said. "Since then, it's gotten a lot better. I've really been working on my speed and control in practice."

Belcher enters with two goals in mind: Achieve a 50-meter throw (164 feet) and finish in an All-American spot (top eight).

"If I can get 50 meters, it should be good enough to get top eight," he said. "I'm very confident I can do it. Last year, I went in 18th and finished 10th. The key is to not think too much and just fling it. I know what I'm capable of it, it's just a matter of doing it."

Accompanying the Hawks to nationals is assistant coach Andy Reid, who was the head coach from 2004-08. Spinnler credits Reid for helping all the athletes develop in all areas of the sport, especially in the multis and throws.

"Coach Reid is just such a big reason in helping these kids get to this level," Spinnler said. "Both Micaela and Tiffany have improved immensely in the throws under his tutelage. He coaches multi athletes, has for decades, and he's gotten great improvement out of them."