What do you get when you add together two sprinters, a multi-event athlete and a mid-distance runner? One of the best relay teams NDSU has ever seen. Morgan Milbrath, Ashley Tingelstad, Ashley Heinze and Paige Stratioti (left to right) broke NDSU’s 4×400 relay record three times in the span of 21 days, shaving 6.55 seconds off their original mark. The quartet qualified for the 2014 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. with their time of 3:34.57 earning them a nine out of twelve ranking. We were finally able to slow these four ladies down for a quick moment to find out what it takes to become the first relay team is Bison history to qualify for Nationals.
First Leg with Morgan Milbrath
Why’d you chose to stay close to home?
“I made my decision based on a lot of things. My family talked about (it) and this ended up being the right fit for me. This is probably one of the biggest schools close to my home.”
Do you see your family often?
“Yeah, they come to every meet they can get to, even if it’s not in Fargo.”
As a freshman what were your expectations coming into this year?
“I was afraid of training all year and running versus in high school I played three sports. I was nervous to fit in to the team, to be a part of the team, but even after a week here I wasn’t afraid about anything. These girls are great and I feel right at home.”
What has helped that transition?
“The way the older girls have accepted us and pulled us all together and supported everything we do has honestly made all of our freshman experiences wonderful. Each day at practice we’re serious, but at the same time we get along with each other.”
Do you think the chemistry is coming from the coaches or coming from the girls they bring in?
“I think it’s both. It’s the coaching staff in how we do our training. But at the same time it’s the way the girls interact with each other the way we push each other every day at practice to get better, but also the fact that we are friends on and off the track.”
How long have you been a member of the relay team?
“The first two meets I wasn’t on the team, but we went to the University of Minnesota (and) since then I’ve been on the relay team.”
Have you had your ‘Wow’ moment yet?
“Every time I try to think about the fact that we’re ninth and we’re going to nationals. It’s so above something I could ever imagine being able to happen that I don’t even know how to feel about it.”
Second Leg with Ashley Tinglestad
Coming into this year, did it hit you that this would be your last?
“Absolutely, from the very first meet we had. Especially since I’ve been doing this since I was in 7th grade. It’s weird to think it will come to an end soon, and this year flew by.”
Has it been motivating you?
“Yeah, you only got one more chance.”
What do you do to help prepare the freshman?
“Nerves are such a huge thing, even now. I’ve been doing this for five years in college and your nerves don’t ever really settle down but you just kind of have to act calm. If you see somebody acting nervous you just have to go up to them and say you know, ‘You’re here for a reason’ and that usually helps.”
What did the seniors and juniors say to you?
“It was kind of the same thing. It wasn’t really how it is now. I mean we were good, but it wasn’t like this. There wasn’t really any big pressure like Morgan (Milbrath) has now. A lot of freshman don’t get put through that.”
So does chemistry factor in as to where you like to receive the baton from Morgan?
“It definitely does, yeah. We do handoff (drills) every Monday. Handoffs are definitely big when you are coming neck and neck with somebody.”
When everything is said and done, how do you want to leave your mark here?
“My hard work and dedication. Coming from a small town, you never expect to make it to nationals. I mean that’s kind of for all of us, we’re all from pretty small towns. It’s something to remember.”
What makes this program the best in the Summit league?
“Our coaches, their dedication. The girls they bring in, they want to work hard and keep the tradition alive.”
Third Leg with Ashley Heinze
Was choosing to stay local a big thing after college?
“Yeah, I’m a home body. I mean I go home at least once a week to see my parents and my grandparents are still up here. So I’m really close to them so it’s kind of fun and I just have a lot of family around here.”
So you’re competing in every event possible. Are you considering throwing javelin in the future?
“I am once we get outdoors, I throw javelin.”
That was a joke! I didn’t know you actually threw javelin.
“I do (laughs). When we get outdoors we add that and the 200.”
What’s that like to participate in so many different events?
“It’s fun, it’s crazy. I never would have guessed. Literally I was messing around one day… I was just running around and the high jump mats were out and so I went and just jumped over the bar. I did high jump a little bit in high school but I just tried to make the bar and my coach is like, ‘Ashley, can you jump that again?’ And I jumped it and he’s like ‘The multi at conference? You’ll be in it.”
What was that like learning all those events so quickly?
“I had never thrown shot put or done long jump so it was fun. I feel like (my coach) had the confidence in me. I mean literally it was like, ‘Hey Ash, this is how you long jump, try it out. OK good, let’s throw shot.’ It’s been fun to learn everything.”
Everyone is in good shape, but are you training differently since you are in multiple events?
“Yeah, I don’t train at all with (the relay team) actually. Multis kind of have their own (training) — jump a day, run a day, throw a day. So it’s kind of cool, I mean I feel I’m pretty privileged to get to run with them because they specialize in that.”
What does going to Nationals this year mean to you?
“This is huge. I’m grinning from ear to ear all the time. And the fact that we’re the first relay team (to go), that’s huge.”
Anchor with Paige Stratioti
What is it about your coach Ryun Godfrey that everyone likes?
“He’s very personable and very relaxed. Especially I think for women, it is very important to have patience and you kind of find yourself in a therapist position as well as a coach. He’s very laid back and I think that’s very important. You don’t find that in a lot of coaches.”
How important is the chemistry in your relay team?
“It’s a huge part. When you practice with these people every day and you see how hard they work coming in every single day, especially when you are in a race you just feed off of it. Being an anchor I watch Morgan (Milbrath), and then Ashley (Heinze) and Ashley (Tingelstad) and it’s like you almost feel shaky once you get the baton because it’s such great chemistry. And then when you’re successful obviously it’s like all the hard work that everybody puts in just pays off and that’s what’s so big about a relay.
What’s that like to anchor?
“It’s tough to put into words. I like it and I always get really nervous for it because I feel like all the pressure is on me. But every race we’ve had, they’ve taken all the pressure off me because they run so well. They make me excited to anchor for them.”
Can you explain the benefits of all of you being so dynamic?
“We got a multi in Ashley (Heinze), Morgan and Ashley are sprinters, I’m kind of 400 and 800. Ashely (Tingelstad) and I are very similar because we kind of meet at 400. But I think that makes us super unique and when you get on the line, especially this next weekend at NCAAs, everybody is just as fit as you. It’s kind of the mentality. How bad do you want it? AndI think that’s really cool, especially about our relay because who would have ever thought that four Midwest girls from Minnesota and North Dakota would make it this far and I think that’s what makes it special. Small town girls with big hearts. Cheesy.”
Was running at Nationals a part of the goal this season?
“If the season ended right now I’d be happy with everything. So it’s kind of just the cherry on top of everything but obviously we’d like to break a school record again. All the times are really close so I think it will be a really, really good race.”