TCC runners to make historic start at national meet

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

With only a handful of races left in the season, Gary Droze never doubted that his runners have the ability to qualify for the NJCAA national championships.

Never mind that the Tallahassee Community College team that he coaches is only in its third season ever.

“I was being a realist; we will take our shot,” Droze said. “I said we will do the best we can and build on it. They weren’t having none of that and decided to get it this year.”

Genevieve Printiss and Mia Wiederkehr in particular. They made school history at the Alice Coachman Invitational in late March at Albany State where Printiss qualified for the national meet in the 1,500-meter race. Wiedekehr qualified in the 800-meters.

Printiss won her event, leading most of the way against a field of more experienced runners, finishing in a time 4:57.01. That was three seconds faster than the qualifying time for the national meet and she also knocked eight seconds off her previous best time.

Wiederkehr also trimmed her previous best by a little over four seconds with her qualifying time of 2:20.8 in the 800 race. The time was a little more than a minute off the required time to qualify.

They will compete for the national title May 16-18 in New Mexico.

Both runners have turned their focus to training specifically for their events. Neither seemingly is willing to simply to accept the accomplishment of being the first TCC runners in a national meet.

“I think it’s important not to settle,” said Wiederkehr. “I really want to try to make the finals so I’m going to do everything I can to make it that far. At that point, it’s the last race so you just give it everything.”

They would have been preparing for the national meet by the time they run their event, Droze said. Printiss is especially optimistic about her chances.

“I have a very good outlook on it,” she said. “So to me it’s like how much work can I do and how much more can I bring down my time. That focus is now more than ever.”

Both runners joined the TCC track team with experience from running for their respective high schools – Wiederkehr at Braden High and Printiss at Franklin County. Wiederkehr held her high school record for the 800, while Printiss held the mark for the mile, 200 and 5K at Jackson County.

Initially Printiss was the only one of the two who came to TCC with the intention of running for the Eagles She thought about going to Chipola College, but wanted to experience a bigger city, she said.

Wiederkehr, wasn’t sure her schedule as a dental hygiene student would have allowed her time to practice with the team. She’s done one better now that she is heading to the national championship meet.

“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “I’ve been running since the fourth grade. I thought my last track race was three years ago in high school.”