Story by Andy Mason, Herald-Mail Sports, November 17, 2020
What a trip to Fort Dodge, Iowa, it was for the Iggy Chalker-led Hagerstown Community College men's distance runners.
Chalker, a freshman, became a two-time NJCAA All-American in the span of about 72 hours.
On Tuesday morning, he placed third in the NJCAA Half Marathon Championships in a school-record time of 1:09:17.5, after finishing eighth in the NJCAA Division I Cross Country Championships on Saturday.
Both events were hosted by Iowa Central Community College.
"I definitely didn't expect to come out here and be able to compete with everyone like that," said Chalker, the former Williamsport High star. "It's been a great experience."
Sophomore Henry Schmidt, the former Boonsboro High standout, also earned All-American honors in the half marathon for HCC, placing 14th in 1:12:37.9.
The Hawks finished fifth as a team in the half marathon after placing ninth Saturday in cross country.
"The execution of the team was just absolutely perfect," HCC coach Mike Spinnler said. "Iggy and Henry went out with the lead pack and were right in the mix.
"Iggy was in sixth place at halfway and fought real hard in the pack. He ran the last 5K in 15:56 after coming through 10 miles in 53:21. It was amazing. What a war."
Chalker, who averaged 5:17 per mile for the 13.1 distance, was the top American finisher.
"The sky's the limit for that young man," Spinnler said. "He's competing against international athletes and holding his own."
Cloud County's Awet Beraki won the race convincingly in 1:05:06.3, while Iowa Central's Kelvin Bungei, Saturday's cross country champion, placed second in 1:07:47.8.
For Schmidt, the half marathon offered him a chance at redemption. On Saturday, he was HCC's fourth finisher, placing a disappointing 74th overall after suffering a fall during the race.
"Henry is floating on Cloud 9 right now, making All-American," Spinnler said. "He really came back after having a tough day Saturday. It was just spectacular.
"He was happy as far as our team result on Saturday, but he was really kind of downtrodden about how he did individually. But here he is 72 hours later, and he bounced back. He really showed his strength. He got a little retribution and got some really solid feedback from all the mileage he put in."
HCC got the rest of its scoring Tuesday from Trent Overcash (23rd, 1:15:23.1), David Butts (34th, 1:20:14.5) and Dharma Bhatt (46th, 1:25:10.5). The Hawks' Gabe Conder (41st, 1:23:07.6) and James Buchheit (42nd, 1:23:49.7) competed unattached as the team had to declare its five runners who would count toward scoring before the race.
"From top to bottom, it was a great team effort," Spinnler said. "And it wasn't the most ideal situation. We raced all out 72 hours ago. That's not ideal tapering for a half marathon."
Next up for the Hawks is indoor track, which apparently is still a go in the pandemic.
"The president of the NJCAA had a Zoom meeting with all the coaches, and he said 'let's go' for indoor track," Spinnler said. "He said when indoor nationals were and to go ahead and make your hotel reservations. So our next focus is indoor nationals at Pittsburg State the first weekend in March."