College Station, Tex. - UC Santa Barbara junior Hope Bender competed at the Division 1 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships this past Friday all the way in College Station, Texas. Hosted by Texas A&M, the Indoor Championships took place from the 9th-10th with Hope completing her 5 event trek throughout the course of the first day of competition. When all was said and done, she would walk away with a 12th place finish with a total score of 4010 points, her second best pentathlon score to date.
A Glimpse of the Top
"This was her first time on the big stage," Assistant Gray Horn said about Hope's NCAA Division 1 Championship debut. "I can tell you from experience that the pressure of this meet is bone crushing, and it's something you can't describe until you experience it yourself. The Division 1 world learned a lot about Hope Bender this weekend, all things that I'm very proud of."
Hope would begin her 5 event venture with a big performance in the 60m hurdles, clocking in a new personal best of 8.44 seconds, taking an early spot in the top 8. The rest of the events wouldn't be as head turning as that first one, but Hope would go on to display, as described by the junior Gaucho herself, as a display of, "grit, grinding through, and staying tough."
Bender would take to the high jump after the hurdles, and would actually come up with her second best height in the event at 5' 4 ¼", but in a field littered with pentathletes clearing well over 5' 10", Hope would slip outside the top 8 placings heading into the third event. A less than ideal bout during the shot put would have her fall even lower in the placings, but a good first attempt in the long jump would keep her afloat heading into the final event.Hope would go on to regroup for a strong and solid finish in her final event, the 800m, and take 5th overall in that event with a 2:17.01, closing her championships in 12th overall, matching her national ranking going into the meet, with a total score of 4010 points.
"It's definitely tough to go into the meet with such high hopes and not put together your best day when it counts the most," Hope would continue, "but 12th place is the country and scoring over 4000 points in two out of [the three pentathlons I did this year] is still absolutely something to be proud of. To have the experience of going to a meet like that and competing in a national championship is super special and exciting and I just hope that, going forward into the outdoor season, I can take what I've learned indoors and grow from it and put together more championship-level performances."
To sum up Hope's impact on her competition and upcoming outdoor preparation, here is what Coach Horn had to say. "I received many compliments from fellow coaches about her positive attitude, her character, and how she always manages to put on a smile regardless of the situation. The future is bright for her, on and off the track."