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Mesa's Sterling, Rowe can lean on each other at indoor nationals

Bacall Sterling, left, and Whitney Rowe, right, are the first two track athletes from Colorado Mesa to qualify for the indoor national championships. Sterling qualified in the triple jump and Rowe will participate in three events — the 60-meter-dash, the 200 and the long jump.

Colorado Mesa women’s track and field coach Katrice Thomas always thought Whitney Rowe would be the next Colorado Mesa women’s track & field athlete to qualify for the NCAA Division II indoor or outdoor national championships.

Instead, it was Bacall Sterling, who did it three weeks ago. Alexis Skarda was the first Mesa student-athlete to qualify for the indoor or outdoor national championships.

Last week, though, Rowe’s provisional scores earned her a nationals invite, and she will join Sterling at the indoor national championships Friday and Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“Going to nationals itself is an accomplishment, but when you can see one of your teammates and best friends go, that makes it so much better,” Rowe said. “You can experience it together. Having the coaches’ support is huge, but having someone that can relate to you in that high-pressure situation ... I don’t know how to explain it.

“It is perfect. It’s hard to put into words, but I’m really grateful she’s going with me. It’s going to be motivating for sure. I’ve gone to track meets by myself. Not having that support sucks. Knowing she’s in the stands will definitely help.”

The junior from Burnaby, British Columbia, came close to qualifying for the Division II indoor national championships last year, so actually making it this year is a relief — and a little hard to believe.

“I’ve been trying for two years, and now I’m actually going,” Rowe said. “It doesn’t seem real. We talk about it, ‘No, it hasn’t hit us yet.’ That’s the biggest thing why it hasn’t hit me: I’ve been so close and haven’t achieved it yet. Now that I’ve actually achieved it, it’s kind of surreal.”

Rowe had a provisional time in the 60-meter dash last year, but didn’t get an invitation.

This year, she received an invitation to participate in three events: the 60-meter dash; 200; and long jump.

“I think that’s the biggest shocker is how much of an improvement I’ve made since last year,” Rowe said.

Rowe improved her long jump by more than one foot from last year. She went from a best time of 7.78 seconds to a 7.56 in the 60, and she lowered her time in the 200 from 25.69 to 24.64.

Rowe had a provisional score in the 100 and 200 in outdoor track and field last year.

“I was super-excited for (Rowe),” Sterling said. “I’m so happy for her because she’s been working for this. Making it in three events is crazy. She’s been working really hard. It will pay off, and she’ll prove herself.”

Rowe’s offseason work was instrumental in making the necessary improvements to qualify this year.

“I’m glad she stayed focused,” Thomas said of Rowe. “She was so close last year that it was either going to be a make or break situation. She decided it was still possible and she would go after it hard. She trained through the entire summer and fall. It’s a testament of her hard work.”

Both Rowe and Sterling hope to make more Mesa history and become the first track and field All-Americans in the program’s history.

“I almost don’t know exactly what to hope for,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to put pressure on their shoulders. They’ve already achieved such a great accomplishment. I think all of the coaching staff and teammates know how well they can do. We’ll go in there and hope for their best performances. If they can do that, we’ll come back with one All-American and one All-American Canadian.”

Rowe is ranked 10th in the 60 (7.56), 14th in the 200 (24.64) and 16th in the long jump (18-feet, 11.75 inches).

“I’m trying to make finals,” Rowe said. “I’m not setting myself up for times. I’ve done that in the past, and if I don’t achieve them ... I shut down. I want to be top eight and get that All-American title that I technically can’t accept because I’m not American, but that’s the main goal.”

Sterling, a sophomore transfer, automatically qualified for nationals three weeks ago in the triple jump. She is ranked eighth in the event (40-feet-4.25).

“My (goal) is pretty much the same,” Sterling said. “I want to make it to finals and hopefully place in the top eight and be an All-American. Coach (Jason Brenton) wants me to win the whole thing. If that happens, great. It will definitely give me confidence for outdoors, too.”


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