Oregon’s Jake Gladieux wins NCAA D-III national title

J. Patrick Eaken

       Trine University sophomore Jake Gladieux (Whitmer), who is from Oregon, became just the second national champion in the Trine University men's track and field program's NCAA history by winning the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships in North Carolina. Gladieux earns All-American status on the back of the win.
       Gladieux qualified for the event on Thursday when he finished the preliminary race with a time of 52.64, good enough to be the fourth seed for the final race. He would shave further time off for this race coming in with the win at 52.57.
       "To win a national championship after facing the adversity of the past few weeks speaks volumes for his work ethic and mental toughness," said Seth Ware, assistant coach in charge of sprints, hurdles and javelin. "I am extremely proud to be his coach and look forward to what the future holds for him and the entirety of the Thunder track and field program."
        Gladieux, who is just entering his junior year at Trine, says now he knows that he is the standard-bearer in NCAA D-III track.
        “I will have a target on my back, just a little bit, but I like that feeling. It makes me work a little harder,” Gladieux said.
Gladieux becomes just the second men's track and field athlete to become a national champion since Trine joined the NCAA in 2004. He is the first since 2008 when Russell Dill also brought home a championship in the 400-meter dash.
However, Gladieux had a crazy turn of events just before the national championships. He thought he was in shape and ready to go when the unthinkable happened.
        “It is after the season, so you are already in pretty good shape at that point because you want to be as ‘enduranced’ and strong as you can be going into that,” Gladieux said. “So, we had conference and then nationals were three weekends after that and I actually got COVID the weekend after conference.
        “I tested positive and had to sit for a whole week and a half with fever and chills, body aches, no energy and it was a little hard to breath. I was a little nervous for it, but we did some workouts just a couple days before we left to go to North Carolina and I felt pretty good.”
When it came time for the 400 hurdles, there was another crazy turn of events.
        “It worked out in my favor because I get out pretty fast compared to most people. I was in lane seven so I raced myself until the end,” Gladiuex said. “It was 88 (degrees) until the race, and then just before the 400 hurdles, and only for the 400 hurdles, it just started pouring down rain. It was storming like crazy.
        “It probably did a lot bit of both (helped and hurt) because we got into the blocks to start and they shot the gun to start us two times before they made us go into the camp and had us sit there for a minute because the gun would not go off in the rain. So, we got soaking wet and had to sit there for 15 minutes and then they said, ‘Alright guys, come on, let’s go, we are going to get ready and run.’”
        Gladieux says he wishes that high school track offered the 400-meter hurdles instead of the 300 to help prepare him better. He did qualify for the NCAA nationals in the 110-hurdles. In the 110 preliminaries, Gladieux competed in the third heat and turned in a time of 15.15, unfortunately not good enough to advance to the finals of the event.
Now it’s time for football
        It appears, at least in Gladieux’s case, that Trine has taken a page out of Eastwood football coach Jerry Rutherford’s book — working alongside the track program to condition players.
        Gladieux, who was raised in East Toledo until his family moved to Oregon at about age 15, is also a six foot, 185-pound cornerback for the Trine football team, which went 3-1 this spring. He does not mind because his father was a former prep football coach. The two sports keep him constantly in training, especially this year when football was moved to spring, which limited his playing time because of track.
        “My freshman year I started at safety, and with the whole COVID thing it’s been all over the place. It’s a lot of working out — I’m usually working out four days a week, lifting, and then I do three days a week running workouts,” Gladieux said.
        “So, I need to get a lot stronger and I do some track workout in the summer along with football workouts. Basically, I’m trying to maintain what I have and try to stay fresh with my track stuff so when I go into indoor season I’m not starting fresh and I’ve actually been doing stuff.”
        He finds Angola, Indiana, the home of Trine University, a completely different environment than the Toledo area.
        “I love it. It is nice. It is a little bit small and kind of secluded,” Gladieux said. “There is not really much to do. Angola is not a bad little town, but I’m just used to Toledo. It is a bigger city. The coaches, the kids, and the teachers — I like the environment.
        “(Head track) Coach (Josh) Fletcher, coach Seth, (associate head) coach (Zach) Raber and coach ‘Tulsi’ (jumping coach Hannah Oberdiek) — all of them guys down there are really cool and totally personable. If you need anything they are willing to do anything for you in a heartbeat.
        “It is definitely a good environment, especially now on the men’s side we won our first outdoor conference championship in program history, and we won (this year’s) indoor and last year’s indoor, so I’m just trying to build a little bit of a dynasty and help the coaches out here, too, because they definitely bring in good recruits. Our workouts are really good,” Gladieux continued.
        Even though he is less than two hours from Oregon, there are a lot of familiar faces at Trine, especially on the athletic teams. That includes 6-foot-1, 210-pound freshman outside linebacker Tyler Strasbourg (Clay) on the football team.
        “There are two kids from Clay, a couple kids from Whitmer coming in, and there are some kids from Central Catholic and from Sylvania Northview. They get quite a few people from the Toledo area,” Gladieux said.


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