NCAA Preview: Mayden Feels Right at Home Racing Against Nation's Best

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Samantha Mayden She’s going to be more than 2,600 miles from Muhlenberg, but when junior Samantha Mayden takes the track at this weekend’s NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships, she’s going to be surrounded by plenty of familiar faces.

Mayden is the first runner in Mule history to qualify for the national championships in the 5,000 meters and is one of four Centennial Conference runners in the field of 22 that will go off at 5:30 Pacific time on Saturday in Claremont, Calif.

The CC’s four qualifiers are the most of any conference, and Mayden, who is seeded 22nd, said it should help her feel comfortable in the fast field.

NCAA Championships “Racing with them in this meet, in a small field, will help it feel a little more close to home,” she said. “They’ve made me a better runner, and hopefully it will help me feel relaxed.”

Mayden shattered the school record in the 5,000 by more than seven seconds in a time of 17:13.55 at the Bucknell Distance Night in April to become the seventh different member of the women’s team to earn a trip to nationals.

The Mules have sent a female to the outdoor championships in seven of the last nine years and have been represented by either a male or a female in 11 of the past 12 years.

Since the 5,000 is the next-to-last event of the meet, and Muhlenberg has never qualified a team in the last event, the 4x400 relay, Mayden will compete later into the school year than any athlete in Mule history. But when it comes to running on the national stage, it will be nothing new for her.

Mayden also qualified for the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships in the fall and is just the second Mule female to qualify for the national meets in both cross country and track. And she hopes that experience competing against the country’s best will help her not be fazed by the magnitude of the meet so she can focus on running her race.

“I learned that the best way to approach the race is not to think of it as being any different than the other races I’ve run this season,” she said of her experience at the cross country meet. “It may be a more competitive field, but it shouldn’t change the way I race.

“I just hope to be competitive and represent Muhlenberg and my teammates well. I would like to run one last hard and smart race, all times aside. If I beat one person, I will finish better than my seed, so that would be a good day for me.”
Click here for the championship Website.