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Schmaltz among nation’s best 800 meter runners

Posted 4/13/11 (Wed)

By Robin Wark

At the 2010 NCAA West Preliminary Round Track and Field Meet in Austin, Texas, Watford City’s Christine Schmaltz had a revelation.
The daughter of Gary and Betty Bruins of Arnegard ran the 800-meter race in 2:07.45, which is the fourth fastest time ever at North Dakota State University. Her performance placed her 14th overall and just two spots away from earning a trip to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore.
“The competition really opened my eyes to the next level,” said Schmaltz, who married her husband, Michael last summer. “Seeing how close I was to nationals made me want it that much more.”
The always-driven Schmaltz has approached her senior season with a great amount of purpose. For example, in March, she was voted the Summit League Women’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Year by the conference coaches. However, when asked about the award, the humble and grounded Schmaltz was caught a bit-off guard.
“I was not expecting that,” she said. “That was a very nice honor to have given to me. I don’t look at myself as one of the best in the conference.”
However, many others certainly do. Schmaltz repeated as the conference’s 800-meter indoor champ (2:13.77) and finished second in the mile (4:57.70). As well, she helped the 4x400 relay team to a second-place finish. Her efforts played a role in NDSU capturing its fourth-consecutive indoor Summit League title. During the indoor campaign, the All-League pick posted a personal best time of 2:06.92, which is ranked second all-time at NDSU.
She is now turning her attention to the outdoor season – and helping the Bison capture a fourth-straight Summit League Outdoor title. For her personally, in order to make it to the NCAA Championships, Schmaltz first needs to post one of the top 48 times in the nation. After that, at the NCAA West Preliminary Round, she will have to finish in the top 12.
The national event would certainly be a career highlight for Schmaltz, who has enjoyed travelling and seeing different parts of the country due to track. She also relishes the opportunity to compete at large, prestigious meets, such as the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Mt. SAC Relays in California.
“It helps to be able to run against the best competition,” Schmaltz said.
In that way and others, NDSU head coach Ryun Godfrey said Schmaltz has been a great teammate at NDSU. For five seasons, including a redshirt freshman year, Schmaltz has pushed and been pushed by some of the top runners NDSU has had.
“It has been fun to watch her grow into the athlete and person she is today,” Godfrey said.
Her times have come down and Schmaltz has matured physically as well – “You see muscle on her where you never saw it before,” Godfrey said. The coach said the increase in Schmaltz’s confidence has been a major factor in her success as well as her desire to succeed.
“There is something about having that inner drive. You can have supportive coaches and supportive parents ... it still comes down to what you have inside that drives you. She has that.”
People have asked Godfrey how he is going to replace athletes like Schmaltz, and he said simply that you just can’t. He said the whole package of athletic achievement, academic excellence and personality makes student-athletes like Schmaltz special.
“Coming into practice with a smile on your face, willing to get down and work hard and have fun when it is time to have fun,” he said. “She understands those things.”
Schmaltz has excelled in the classroom as well. A regular on the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division I All-Academic Team, she will graduate this spring with a degree in business management. During her college career, Schmaltz has also been taking classes online. In the spring of 2012, she will receive a business education degree from Valley City State University.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I really want to be a coach someday,” Schmaltz said. “I want to have the opportunity to train athletes, coach athletes and be able to give them the opportunities I’ve had.”
Some of those opportunities have come from working with great coaches, such as Greg Brown, who first taught her to run a 400-meter race as a seventh-grader, and the staff at NDSU. Schmaltz is also grateful for all that her parents have done for her over the years.
“That they have been so supportive of me has been so awesome.”
She also appreciates the help of her husband, who is from Rugby. Their lives at times – even such things as when to eat supper - revolve around track, but Schmaltz said her husband has been extremely supportive and encouraging. He is majoring in agriculture economics and would like to farm after earning his degree.
While her NDSU career is winding down, Schmaltz might stay on the track for a bit longer. She is debating whether to continue training next year and taking a shot at trying to make it to the U.S. Olympic trials. Even if she opts not to do that, Schmaltz said she thinks running will always be part of her life. She plans to race 10Ks and maybe even a marathon in the future. However, leaving her days running for the Bison behind will not be easy.
“I am going to really miss being able to compete for NDSU,” she said. “More importantly, I am going to miss my teammates because we have been so close.”