The greatest competitors don’t run from big moments, they run to them, which is how the Purdue track and field team is approaching its final meet of the season.
The Boilermakers qualified 13 athletes for next week’s outdoor NCAA national championships in Eugene, Ore., doubling the six that qualified last year.
One of the athletes who will be leading the Boilers into competition is fifth-year senior Dani Bunch. Bunch is coming off an excellent regional performance in Jacksonville, Fla. Despite not qualifying in the hammer throw event for nationals, she had the single-best throw in the women’s shot put. Her mark of 17.39 meters was the highest recorded throw for both the east and west regions. Bunch is attempting to maintain the status quo in her preparations for nationals.
”The challenge is trying not to change anything I’ve already been doing,” Bunch said. “A lot of people get to this point and they think they have to start making changes to do better or get to the top, but that’s not what got you there. I just don’t want to change anything because I’ve done that before, but since this is my fifth year, I think I’ve learned from my previous mistakes.”
Bunch is surprisingly calm, even with the national championship riding on each throw. For her, she’s got nothing to lose.
”I’m actually kind of excited because it is the last go-round so I’m not really high-strung about it,” Bunch said. “It is all or nothing, but I’m just happy I got this far. There were some moments (this season) where I wasn’t sure if I’d make it, but I did and now I just want to do well.”
Bunch’s teammate, sprinter Raheem Mostert, is similarly composed. Mostert, the reigning Big Ten champion in the 100 and 200 meter dashes, qualified for three events at the regional meet: the 100, 200 and 4x100 meter dashes. Mostert is confident in both the physical and mental aspects of the upcoming meet.
”I practice for these events every day, so I just go out and continue to perfect my craft,” Mostert said. “It’s all mental at this point. I just have to have my mind ready for the championships because I really want to bring a championship back to Purdue.”
Running in three events is both a gift and curse for the junior track and football dual-sport performer. He has more events to prepare for, but in Mostert’s eyes, it just means he has more opportunities to succeed.
”I want to run perfect races,” Mostert said, “but if I fail in one event, I still have two others to fall back on.”
Unfortunately for Bunch, she can’t go into Eugene with that same mindset. All she can do is perform her best in her lone event and hope it’s enough to win a national championship.
”I’m just hoping I can PR, that’s my mindset, because there are probably nine girls (who have a chance) to win the title,” Bunch said. “I’m just going to go out and compete for my best distance and let the chips fall.”
That’s what it comes down to for the Boilers: just perform and hope for the best.
”It’s strictly business,” Mostert said. “In the end, I just want to win.”