Best friends and training partners for three years, Cal State Stanislaus seniors Courtney Anderson and Marina Vorderbruegge shared the ultimate BFF moment on Saturday when they stood side-by-side atop the victory stand at the NCAA Division II National Track and Field Championships in Allendale, Mich.
The two ran together for all four laps of the 1,500-meter final at Grand Valley State and pulled away from the field, with Anderson crossing the line first in 4 minutes, 23.33 seconds and Vorderbreugge right behind at 4:25.33.
“That race is something that nobody will ever be able to take away from me,” Anderson said. “Being able to run that race with Marina and to finish 1-2 means more to me than winning the national championship.
“I remember my first day on campus, my recruiting visit, when I felt hands on my back and heard `Hi, there, I’m Marina.’ We became instant friends and she’s such a genuine person. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to do anything close to this without her being here the whole time.”
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Anderson, a Folsom native and a transfer from American River College, became the first Warrior to win an outdoor national championship since pole vaulter Chaunte Mitchell won back-to-back crowns in 2004-05.
She’s the first Stanislaus runner to claim an outdoor title since Carrie Luis Neugebauer won four championships in 1993-94 in the 800 and 1,500. Men’s pole vaulter Kasey Burlingham (2009), was the Warriors’ most recent national champion in any event.
The game plan for Anderson and Vordebruegge all along was to run the 1,500 as a team to take advantage of the countless training runs they’ve made together since becoming teammates.
“We wanted to run the race at the front and I wanted to have Marina at my shoulder,” Anderson said. “We found each other right away, after about 100 meters. Everything about that race was terrific.”
As if the national championship performance wasn’t enough, Anderson came back three hours later to finish fourth in the 5,000. She was seeded 15th in the event and the goal entering the race was to finish in the top eight to earn All-American status.
But Anderson had something left going into the final lap and used a strong kick to finish in 16:36.42, a career-best, a school record and more than 13 seconds faster than her qualifying time.
“There were so many big girls in that race,” Anderson said. “I got stuck in the middle for a while. With about a mile to go I was able to look over at coach (Diljeet Taylor) and got the go-ahead just to go for it.”
Bolstered by the points gained in the 1-2 finish in the 1,500, Stanislaus was able to finish eighth in the women’s team standings, the highest finish in school history. The previous high was 16th place for the Warrior women in 1992.
“To finish eighth in the team standings is amazing,” Taylor said. “There aren’t many times when I’m speechless, but this is one of those times.”
Earlier in the day, Channing Wilson earned All-American honors for a second consecutive year with an eighth-place finish in the javelin. Her toss of 45.90 meters (150 feet, 7 inches) was good for eighth. The junior from Turlock High finished seventh in last year’s national meet.
The Warriors also grabbed All-American honors on the men’s side, with shot putter Josh Uikilifi, a senior from San Bruno, finishing eighth. He entered the event seeded ninth, but unleashed an effort of 17.41 meters (57-11/2) to reach the podium.
Two other Warrior men didn’t fare as well on the event’s final day. Sophomore Deon Pinder from Tracy finished 10th in the triple jump at 15.22 meters (49 113/4), which was one-half inch from what was needed to qualify for the final heat. Billy Hilton, a senior from Groveland, finished 20th in the javelin at 54.05 meters (177-4.)