Junia Limage expected to win.
Gabi Dixson, not so much.
But each Concordia University senior concluded her indoor track and field career at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio as a national champion.
Limage, who won NAIA national championships at 800 meters both indoors and outdoors last year, was victorious in her final collegiate individual race for back-to-back indoor national titles. The Fort Vancouver High School graduate also helped the Cavaliers’ distance medley relay team to a runner-up finish.
Dixson, from Battle Ground, added the weight throw title to the discus national crown she won at last year’s outdoor nationals. She also placed third in the shot put.
They helped Concordia finish third in the women’s team race. The Cavaliers’ 61 points more than doubled the program’s previous best of 27 points while finishing eighth a year ago.
Both Limage and Dixson will be graduating from Concordia on May 4.
Limage led wire-to-wire in the 800 on Saturday, winning in a school-record time of 2 minutes, 9.75 seconds — 1.66 faster than her winning time in 2012, 1.2 seconds faster than her previous school record, and nearly two seconds ahead of the next runner.
“Before the race, there was a lot of pressure because my teammates were expecting me to win it — students at the school, and everyone overall,” Limage said. “Just looking at the field, I knew I was the fastest one. I knew that none of the girls have the speed that I have. It was not much of a problem.”
Limage — who exhausted her eligibility in cross country and outdoor track and field during the 2011-12 seasons — was driven all season to repeat in the event.
“I think it was more fun the first time because it was new,” she said. “It was like it just happened. It was all joy and surprise and tears and all of that feeling like, ‘Oh, my gosh! I can’t believe it! Oh, my gosh! I did it.’ The second time, it was like it’s expected. Once you win it, you will do everything in your power to go back and win it again.”
About two hours later, she ran the 800-meter leg of the relay, handing off the baton after giving the Cavaliers about a 10-second lead going into the anchor mile leg. College of Idaho’s Hillary Holt — who won the NAIA cross country individual championship in Vancouver in November — was able to overcome that deficit, leaving Concordia in second place.
While there is some sadness over completing her collegiate eligibility — particularly in leaving behind the camaraderie of traveling and competing with teammates — Limage now sets her sights on qualifying to represent her native Haiti and running professionally.
Limage, who came to the United States at the age of 10 and arrived in Vancouver as a high school freshman, said she needs an outdoor time of about 2:05 to fulfill those goals.
Limage said she will not have discussions about when and where she might run for Haiti until she informs her country that she is qualified.
But she has no doubt it will happen.
“Yes,” she said. “I will get it done in May. That’s the goal. Once I get the mark, I will contact the government of my country and let them know that I’m interested and I have hit the time and I would like to run for my country, and see what they say to that. That’s what I’m working toward right now.”
Dixson is not quite sure how she won the weight throw — a sort of indoor version of the hammer throw with a heavier ball and shorter chain.
“I was really relaxed for the weight throw,” she said. “It’s not my main event. I barely practice it — just a couple of times a week.”
Having teammate Sharayah Kenady in the Friday event helped as they pushed each other, Dixson said.
In third place heading into her sixth and final throw, Dixson uncorked a national championship mark of 62 feet, 91/2 inches. She won by nearly a foot and broke her own 2011 school record by more than four feet after placing sixth at each of the previous two indoor nationals.
“I just kind of relaxed and said a little prayer, and it felt great,” Dixson said. “When I threw it, I knew it was a good one because it never felt like that before. I don’t practice it enough to get that kind of feeling consistently, so when I felt it, I was like, ‘Well, that felt pretty good’ and it went pretty far. That was nice. I have no idea what I did to do it, but I did it.”
The next day, Dixson claimed her 11th career NAIA All-America honor with a third-place finish in the shot put.
Her mark of 49-11/2 was five inches behind the winning effort.
“I wanted to do better, but honestly, it was my best shot put performance at indoors ever,” she said. “I always get super nervous before shot put for some weird reason. … I was disappointed because I know I can throw farther. I think it was still fine for an indoor performance.”
The shot is the same weight as used in outdoor track, but is larger and constructed partially of plastic so as to not damage the wooden indoor floor.
Dixson now looks ahead to her final outdoor season.
“I’m just looking forward to good competition and enjoying my teammates, and having the work I put into it pay off at the end,” she said. “There are no limitations on this season. I’m so ready for it. I feel like it’s going to be a good season. It’s been a really good training year so far.”