She exceeded all her expectations and reached her goals at nationals.
Danielle Schultz, a Webster track and field athlete, used to beg her coach not to make her run the 800-meter event in middle school. She disliked it so much she would try to bargain with her coach to get out of running the event.
About 10 years later, Schultz ran at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track And Field Championships, becoming the 14th fastest 800-meter runner in Division III.
What Schultz used to dread the most later became the event she was the best at.
“I started running the 800 more often in high school and actually fell in love with the event,” Schultz said. “Ever since then, it has been my favorite event.”
Three weeks ago, Schultz competed in nationals after being the only Gorlok to qualify this year. She finished in 14th place, breaking the school’s indoor track record with a time of 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
After countless hours of practice, trying to run consistently and making sure she was getting good nutrition and sleep, all of Schultz’s hard work boiled down to just a couple minutes of her life.
“Nationals was not something I expected, but it was the goal,” Schultz said. “If you were to tell me in the beginning of the season that I was going to nationals, I would have been shocked.”
However, Athletic Director Scott Kilgallon was not surprised Schultz made it to nationals. He fully expected it. Alongside head coach Nick Homan, Kilgallon also helps coach during the season.
“[Schultz] does not realize how good she can be,” Kilgallon said. “She is at a different level.”
Schultz noted she never really had good indoor seasons. Since the indoor season is so early on, it usually takes her a while to get her times fast.
However, this season, Schultz did not need much time to start running at her fastest times. In the beginning of the season, she was ranked 36th in the country. When she went to nationals, she was ranked 20th and after nationals, Schultz was ranked 14th. Schultz accomplished this in less than two months.
“I was shocked at how fast my times were in the beginning of the season,” Schultz said. “Even after my last race, I had no idea that I would make it to nationals.”
While on the plane to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, all Schultz could think about was how she could not believe this was happening.
The day before the race, Schultz went to the track. She saw people running on the track, people practicing their jumps, pole-vaulting, and more.
“Everyone was doing a different event and it was really cool to see the diversity,” Schultz said. “It was awesome to see people do some really crazy things and it was such a cool sight to see.”
Despite being more than prepared and qualified to be running at nationals, Schultz wished her team could have been there with her.
“Being there by myself definitely allowed me to get a little more into my head,” Schultz said. “I think if my teammates were there, it would have been easier.”
The feeling of shock remained as Schultz crossed the finish line. She was happy with how her race went but also grateful for the opportunity to run among some of the top collegiate athletes in the nation.
“I was very proud of Dani because everybody [at nationals] is very good and she does not get intimidated by that,” Kilgallon said. “She went in there, did her thing and ran a great race.”
Schultz is only a junior and still has one more year left with many goals she still wants to accomplish. Her goals now are to break the school record for the 800-meter outdoors, the 1500-meter and the 4×400-meter relay with her teammates. Schultz would also like to make it to Outdoor Nationals this upcoming Spring.
Kilgallon also has big goals planned for Schultz. He hopes to see her break the 800-meter school record again outdoors and place even higher in the Track and Field Outdoor Nationals.