(Cover photo: University of Louisville field athletes, LtoR, Emmonnie Henderson, Chanel Krause, and Dolly Nyemah. Credit: Louisville Athletics)
Three University of Louisville field athletes qualified to compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships March 11-12 at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Ala.
And all three walked away with All-America honors.
Juniors Dolly Nyemah, Chanel Krause, and Emmonnie Henderson represented for the women and finished among the top in the nation.
Nyemah, a weight thrower, placed 2nd with a personal best 22.21m (72-10) on her final throw. Not only was it a major improvement from her 12th place finish last season at the same event, but it was also a noticeable improvement from her previous personal best of 21.64m (71-0), which she notched just two weeks earlier at the ACC Championships.
That personal best was ranked sixth-best in the nation at the time, got her the ACC title, and was an ACC meet record.
“It was the hardest meet of my life,” the Indianapolis native, by way of Liberia, shyly laughed about the ACC meet. “It was hard because I fouled my first two [throws] and it took a lot, personally.”
But it was that ACC meet that prepared her for the NCAAs. She wasn’t shy in noting that the ordeal was mentally taxing. Nyemah laid on the ground, stressing out as she struggled with the usual, overwhelming nervousness that she battles within and outside of the sport. She was in 3rd place at the time with one more throw left – and her “hype” team of Emmonnie Henderson, Caitlin Gilmore, and Rachel Serafin was there to encourage her and talk her through the nervousness.
In the end, she worked through it and scored the personal best on that last throw. She cried as she hugged Serafin, emotional not because she had won, but because she was thankful for the words Serafin had spoken to Nyemah to push her past her limits.
“It was an awesome feeling because I think I grew personally as far as being a competitor,” Nyemah said.
Nyemah self-proclaimed that her throws are “all over the place” in practices leading up to meets. And, ironically, she’s fine with that. She believes it makes it easier to pinpoint what worked or what she needs to focus on, as well as keeps her level-headed.
Certainly her 2nd place finish at the most competitive event in the nation for college athletes is something to believe she has grown as a competitor in, and that her irratic throws during preparation seem to work best for her.
Krause, in her first NCAA Indoor appearance, finished 12th in the pole vault when she cleared 4.20m (13-9¼). She currently holds the 13th best mark in the nation; her mark of 4.30m/14-1.25, done at the Samford Invitational in mid-February, is a University of Louisville record.
The ‘Bama girl (native of Mobile, Ala.) was looking forward to simply earning her way amongst the top finishers at the NCAAs. She was coming off an amazing finish at the Samford Invitational in the arena she’s most familiar and comfortable with: the Birmingham CrossPlex. So having the luxury of competing there again for the NCAAs was sure to help her anxiety.
Krause battled with fatigue and hunger as that Samford Invitational lasted six hours. With a low entry height, 32 girls competed instead of the typical 10-15.
“I was not expecting to PR [personal record/best] at all,” said Krause. “I was just wanting to finish the meet, so we skipped heights.”
After she passed the entry height, Louisville assistant coach Brooke Demo decided for Krause to skip a couple of heights in order to hit the national bar height, “because I had no energy left,” Krause laughed.
Henderson and Nyemah also laughed, explaining the anxiety they noticed on Krause’s face when she looked back to see if the pole would actually stay after she landed – and it did, to her huge surprise.
“Oh my gosh, it’s still up! It’s still up,” Krasue told herself as she stared at it. “And then I just started screaming.”
Extremely unanticipated, Krause took her win and levied some added confidence to do her thing at Nationals.
Like Krause, Henderson was also making her first appearance at the NCAA Indoor Championships. A shot put thrower from East St. Louis, Ill., Henderson finished 13th with a mark of 15.88m (52-1¼). Her personal best for indoor was done at this year’s ACC Championships with a 16.92m/55-6.25, giving her a third ACC title. That mark is also ranked 13th in the nation.
“It gives me a little bit more confidence,” said Henderson on that personal best, “because the past weeks and past meets, I was not confident.”
Henderson admitted that she struggled in the throwing ring with the toe board. Her 6-foot-one height and long feet uses up a lot of space versus a shorter competitor who can reach far across the ring, so at times it intimidates her with the possibility of scratching or fouling.
And, in fact, her first throw was a scratch. Her second throw wasn’t good enough to get her in the finals.
Henderson focused on calming down and simply sticking to the technique.
“Then I got this,” said Henderson. “I’m good.”
It was that last throw that etched Henderson into the finals and led to a title. Her overall best throw came from last year’s outdoor season, a mark of 17.09.
At the NCAAs, Nyemah earned first team All-America honors. Krause and Henderson both earned second team honors. Nyemah secured the second-best indoor finish for the Cardinals in the weight throw, behind D’Ana McCarthy’s two wins in 2009 and 2010. Krause became Louisville’s first athlete to earn Indoor All-American honors in the pole vault. Henderson became the third Cardinal to earn All-America honors at the indoor shot put.