Emily Nordquist had her doubts.
The sophomore for the John Hopkins University women's track and field team didn't have much faith that her 1,600-meter relay would qualify for the NCAA Division III Championships held May 23-25 at Ohio Wesleyan University. But her coach, Bobby Van Allen, had a hunch that the Blue Jays' relay could cut the necessary time to reach the season's final meet.
"It was pretty much unexpected (making the NCAA meet)," said Nordquist, a 2012 graduate of Thomas Worthington High School. "We went to Salisbury (University in Maryland) for its Last Chance Meet (on May 16) and set a (program) record and qualified.
"Coach Van Allen thought we would be able to do that, but I wasn't sure. It sounds cliche, but I learned that you need to never give up and always listen to your coaches."
At Salisbury, the 1,600 relay of Megan McDonald, Nordquist, Brynn Parsons and Maggie Shelton won in a program-record 3 minutes, 49.66 seconds, cutting nearly five seconds off its previous-best time for the season. The relay had clocked 3:54.65 while finishing first in the Centennial Conference Championships on May 2-4 at Swarthmore (Pa.) College.
On April 12, the relay went 3:57.78 in the home Hopkins/Loyola Invitational.
"We realized just how close they were and that they were capable of making it (to the NCAA meet)," said Van Allen, who has coached at the Baltimore-based school for 15 seasons. "I think maybe they were a little run down because it can be such a long season. We start working out in September and I think they might have been a little run down, especially mentally. But we thought they would be able to go out and cut the time they needed."
The relay was seeded eighth in the NCAA field and finished ninth in the preliminaries in 3:48.52, breaking its program record from Salisbury. The University of Wisconsin-Stout was eighth in 3:48.24 to claim the last qualifying spot for the finals and guarantee All-America status.
"They were pretty disappointed because they did not make the finals, but that was a new experience for them," Van Allen said. "They missed the finals by a step or less and now they know what to expect for a meet like that. Now they know what it takes to get there and what they need to do to take that next step."
Nordquist was happy that the NCAA meet was close to home, allowing family and friends to watch her compete.
"I was pretty nervous because it was the biggest meet that I had ever been to," she said. "I knew my whole family and a lot of friends would be there watching. That was great because they might not have been able to be there if it had been somewhere like Chicago or St. Louis or somewhere else."
Nordquist also runs the 400 for the Blue Jays. Her top performance was 58.92 on May 4, finishing third in the finals of the Centennial Conference to earn honorable mention all-league honors.
"I guess the biggest difference (in the sport from high school to college) is the time commitment," Nordquist said. "Our team spends the majority of its time together and it's nice to have a close group like that. All three of my roommates all run track."
Van Allen has been impressed with Nordquist's work ethic.
"All of the little things Emily does makes her successful," he said. "She is consistent with her work ethic and works hard every single week, doing the things we ask of her. She works hard in the weight room (and) she does yoga and the pool workouts that are part of the workout program."
Nordquist carries a 3.65 GPA and is majoring in molecular and cellular biology. She currently has an internship with Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.