Bates College runner Ayden Eickhoff is seeded second in the women’s 1,500-meter run at the NCAA Division III outdoor track and field championships in Geneva, Ohio this week. Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Senior Ayden Eickhoff will conclude her stellar Bates College running career in the 1,500-meter race at the NCAA Division III Championships this week.

Heading into the race seeded second, Eickhoff will be trying to build off her most recent time of 4 minutes, 27 seconds at Open New Englands, a personal record by 10 seconds. All it took was a bit of competition.

“I think having a mileage base from cross country has been really helpful, as well as I just hadn’t been in a really competitive race so far,” Eickhoff said. “Being able to run with a couple top-ranked D-III runners and some D-I athletes kind of pushed me to run much faster than I had. I think I dropped 10 seconds from my previous PR. The conditions kind of lined up.”

Eickhoff competed in nationals in cross country and indoor track this sports year. She would also be seeded fifth in the 800-meter but decided against doubling up.

“I didn’t really want to double because I didn’t think it would be particularly enjoyable,” Eickhoff said. “It’s really tough on your body, and for me it would have added more stress than was necessary. Saturday, if you make it in the finals, you have two strenuous races on your legs and not much time in between the two finals. That would have made the strategy going into the week completely different.”

While she’s never run in the 1,500 at nationals before, Eickhoff has a plan, assuming she gets through Thursday’s preliminary race.

The top-four finishers in the two preliminary 1,500 races will automatically reach the final on Saturday, as will the next-four fastest finishers.

Eickhoff hopes to finish the prelim in fourth to conserve some energy in preparation for Saturday.

“I hope to be in that top-four group, and I think the 1,500 prelims will be a little more strategic than the 800 prelims,” Eickhoff said. “Personally, I’m not too scared of that because I know I have the speed. In the final I don’t really know what to expect. I haven’t ever done the 1,500 at nationals before so I really am just going to try to stay relaxed, run with a group and see what I have left in the end.”

KALILWA JUMPING UP

Lewiston High School graduate Adela Kalilwa also is heading to nationals for the University of Southern Maine and will be competing in the long and triple jump competitions.

Kalilwa was named the USTFCCCA D-III New England Region Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year for her leaps this season. The USM junior broke the school record in the long jump at the D-III New England Championship with a jump of 5.82 meters. Like Eickoff, close competition fueled her PR.

“At the New England meet there was a girl that has always been great … and I was like, ‘I need to do better and make sure she doesn’t get close,’” Kalilwa said. “So, I went 5.60-something and she was leading with 5.66, and I said, ‘There’s no way I am going to lose this meet.’

“I went again and went 5.82 and she couldn’t catch that, so competition is always a thing.”

Kalilwa is seeded seventh in the long jump, which takes place Thursday, and 11th in the triple jump, which is Saturday. 

After rehabbing a quad injury that hampered her outdoor season last year, Kalilwa was on a redemption tour in 2019.

“A lot of the things were the same, you improve each day,” Kalilwa said. “But, the practices were the same thing that I’ve always done. I had to grow myself as an athlete. A lot of it has to do with last year I tore my quad and I didn’t do very well. I did a lot of recovery and took care of myself. I feel like last outdoors was a waste for me, so this year was like a redeeming season.”

The junior works mainly with coach George Towle at USM, but still visits Lewiston High School, her alma mater, and gets coaching from coach Paul Soracco. Soracco has shown tough love, but it’s helped Kalilwa in the long run and she hopes to come back to Maine with some hardware.

“A lot of struggles I’ve had with big jumps are fouls (this season),” Kalilwa said. “I’ve had a lot of fouls recently. I go back home and Coach Soracco at Lewiston gives me a lot of crap and says I’m not allowed to foul. A lot of my focus has been on the board and not fouling, and other than that I’m just going for All-American (top-eight).”

Another former Lewiston standout, Ben Musese, also will be competing at the D-III national championships for USM. He is the 10th seed in the triple jump.

Other local athletes attending nationals are Bates’ Brendan Donahue (decathlon), John Rex (hammer).