Any success the St. Ambrose men’s track team has this weekend when it hosts the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference indoor championships will be built on a homegrown foundation.
Athletes from three Quad-City high schools — Josh Pestka of North Scott, Jack Reemtsma of Davenport Central and Rane Nichols of Davenport West — are thriving as the Fighting Bees prepare for the two-day men’s and women’s conference meet, which will be held at the new St. Ambrose Wellness & Recreation Center.
Each already has topped qualifying standards for the upcoming NAIA Championships in multiple events and now they work to lead the Bees into the thick of the team race at a conference meet that includes four programs that finished in the top 13 at last year’s national indoor meet.
“It’s not every year that we get a chance to host a meet like this and we want to make the most of it. It comes down to the details, the little things, and that’s what we’re working on this week,’’ said Pestka, a junior who has recorded the fifth-best time in the NAIA in the 1,000 meters at 2 minutes, 29.22 seconds.
Nichols said one of his biggest challenges this weekend will be finding a find a way to top Pestka in the 1,000, an event in which he has run the 18th-fastest time nationally at 2:31.53.
“We see good competition every day at practice and now that we have this facility to train in rather than working out in shifts at the (Ambrose Dome), we are coming together as a team,’’ Nichols said. “There are some great freshmen here who are fitting in and it’s been great to be part of a growing program.’’
Reemtsma, who has met qualifying standards in the 60 hurdles with a time of 8.41 and the 400 in 49.98, believes things are coming together for the Fighting Bees as a team at the right time.
He saw that last weekend at the Monmouth Indoor, where Reemtsma teamed with Pestka, Nichols and Emilo Mancha on a distance medley relay that topped the national qualifying standard with a time of 10:23.64.
“We’re where we need to be right now leading up to the final meets of the indoor season,’’ Reemtsma said. “We’re a mentally strong team and you can feel things building from one meet to the next. There is some continual improvement going on that makes a difference.’’
Nichols sees the team’s comfort level on the track and in the field areas of the new indoor facility on the St. Ambrose campus as an advantage.
“Every track is a little different and this is home, we should have an edge here that can make it work for us,’’ he said.
Reemtsma believes that as well.
The CCAC meet will be the fourth St. Ambrose has hosted during the indoor season, giving the Bees a chance to get used to their new surroundings in competitive situations.
“There’s a great atmosphere in here during meets and the energy, you feel it as you compete,’’ Reemtsma said. “It’s something we take a lot of pride in.’’
Coach Dan Tomlin views Pestka, Reemtsma and Nichols as examples of athletes who have grown as competitors in the St. Ambrose program.
“All three of those guys, they grew up around the Quad-Cities and they’re doing great things at the next level. They’re among the best in the nation and they’re doing it close to home,’’ Tomlin said. “They’ve all been very coachable and have embraced the culture of our program.’’
Tomlin won’t spend a lot of time talking about times or distances this week, believing top performances follow if athletes are simply allowed to compete to win.
“It’s about preparation, attitude and effort and this team gives us everything it has,’’ Tomlin said.
Pestka, who was named the CCAC indoor track athlete of the week two weeks ago, believes that approach helps the Bees, both individually and as a team, work toward their full potential.
“You work all year for a chance to be at your best at the most important times of the season and indoors, these last few weeks are when you want the mindset to be right,’’ he said. “That’s such a big part of it.’’