Park athlete finds success with track program

Jena Hahlbeck, senior industrial and organizational psychology graduate student, has had a stellar track and cross county career at Park so far, and her 2023 indoor track season has been no different.

She recently ran at the 2023 Heart of America Athletic Conference Championships in Maryville, MO. She earned first place in the 800m event with a time of 2:20.82. Hahlbeck continued with a 2nd place finish in the 600m in a time of 1:34.67, which also met the NAIA’s A Standard qualifying time. With 1st and 2nd place finishes, she is awarded 1st Team and 2nd Team All-Conference awards.

Hahlbeck is no stranger to success when it comes to running. She broke Park’s Indoor Track & Field 800m record on 12/10/22 at the Mel Tjeerdsma Classic in a time of 2:17.16. In addition, she has the 2nd All-Time Fastest Time in outdoor 800m at Park, was on the 2022 Heart Indoor Track & Field 2nd Team All-Conference in the 600m, was a 2022 NAIA Indoor Track & Field Qualifier in the 600m, was on the 2022 Heart Outdoor Track & Field 1st Team All-Conference in the 800m and was the 2022 Heart Outdoor Track & Field All-Conference Honorable Mention for the 4×400.

She was also the 2022 Heart Outdoor Track & Field Champion in the 800m event. After this run, she had to wait to see if her time qualified her to run in the National meet. Hahlbeck said this was one of her favorite memories. “I could just tell that everyone was really anxious to see if I would make it and I got so much support from everyone,” she said. She ended up qualifying to run at Nationals and was able to celebrate this achievement with her teammates.

Hahlbeck originally learned about Park because her uncle ran for the team. He was the one who pushed her to come here, but meeting the coach and team were huge deciding factors. “The main factor ended up being Coach Renshaw,” she said, “I could tell how much he cared about having a good program.”

She advises other student athletes to listen to their coach. “They’ve been doing this so much longer than you have, and it is frustrating seeing really good athletes come into programs thinking that they know what’s best,” she said. “I definitely know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance of my coaches.”

Hahlbeck has also learned the importance of rest days. “Don’t think that just because you take a day off that it means that you’re going to fail miserably.” She added that when she didn’t rest or pushed herself too hard was when she saw herself getting injured, frustrated and burnt out.

She will run at the National Meet on March 3. If she does well enough, then she will run in the finals on March 4.