Mid-distance runner Haiden Diemer-McKinney ’26 capped off the indoor track and field season on Saturday, March 11, with a third-place finish in the men’s 800-meter run at the NCAA Division III National Championships.
Diemer-McKinney clocked 1:50.16 in the final heat of the National tournament, held this year in Birmingham, Alabama. Shaving 1.51 seconds off his personal record time, he finished third nationally, earned All-America honors and broke the Wabash indoor 800m record, toppling a school-best time set 10 years ago by Jake Waterman ’13.
But Diemer-McKinney didn’t do anything the easy way. Far from it—he almost didn’t make the national tournament at all.
Before the field of 20 runners for the DIII tournament was announced on Sunday, March 5, Diemer-McKinney ranked 21st on the NCAA performance list. He wasn’t able to set a new personal record at the Polar Bear Final Qualifier on March 4, so the selection came down to chance. Fortunately for Diemer-McKinney, he made the cut—he was going to Birmingham for the national championships.
“It was seven o‘clock on Sunday night, and my heart was pounding,” said Diemer-McKinney. “I thought to myself, ‘I don‘t know if I‘m going to make it.’ But then I clicked the accepted entries and saw my name at 16—I just went nuts.”
Diemer-McKinney wasn’t fazed by the low ranking. In his semifinal heat on Friday, March 10, he pulled away into second place early on. But as he jostled for position, he slipped down into fourth, where he finished outside of the automatic qualifying places.
There were a few tense seconds while the officials finalized the times, but it didn’t take long for the result to come through: Diemer-McKinney had clocked a time of 1:51.73, enough to earn him the final spot in Saturday’s final.
“The benefit of being in the last heat is you are able to know how well everybody else ran, but I really didn‘t want that to get to my head,” said Diemer-McKinney. “Getting fourth in that heat, I really thought that was it. So, when the announcer said my name, I couldn’t believe it. And with it being the very last qualifying spot, it was extra special.”
He may have gone in as the lowest seed, but he wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass him by. In the final round, Diemer-McKinney stormed his way into third place, but it wasn’t without a fight. At the 400m mark, he sat in fifth place behind MIT’s Charlie Glass. But as Glass fell off in the third lap, Diemer-McKinney saw his opportunity to chase down third-place Garrett Lenners of Nebraska Wesleyan.
As the runners hurtled down the back stretch, Diemer-McKinney sized up Lenners. He took to Lenners’ right-hand side and, lunging forward with all his might, strode past the Nebraskan with an ease one might only expect from a professional. And as he rounded the final corner and crossed the finish line, Diemer-McKinney threw up his hands in disbelief, awestruck by the moment on DIII’s biggest stage.
“It was the best national meet I have seen in my 22 years of coaching,” said Head Track and Field Coach Clyde Morgan. “Haiden ran two very mature races. He wasn’t satisfied with just qualifying for the final, he was in it to win it.”
Nor was he satisfied to run any ordinary race. His time of 1:50.16 was over a second and half quicker than his previous fastest time.
“I had a true runner’s high,” said Diemer-McKinney. “I didn’t even notice we were going that fast. I remember moving up into fourth going into the last lap and thinking, ‘okay, we gotta go for it.’ It was just a lot of adrenaline.”
Diemer-McKinney may not have won the race, but it was by far the toughest field he has faced all season. The winner of the race, Mike Jasa of Loras College, finished in a time of 1:49.30, setting a new NCAA DIII championship record. Despite the fierce competition, Diemer-McKinney proved to everybody that he deserved to mix it with the best.
“If I had to sum up Haiden in one word, it would have to be dedicated,” said teammate Thomas Gaines ’23. “On and off the track, he excels in everything he does. Whether it be making friends, getting all A’s, or placing third in the nation—he makes it all look easy. Don’t let that fool you though, he works day in and day out honing the craft of being a perfect student-athlete.”
Diemer-McKinney’s stellar performance at nationals topped off what has been another remarkable indoor season for the track and field team. Over the weekend of February 24-25, the Little Giants competed in the NCAC Indoor Championships. Hosted at DePauw, Wabash finished in first place out of eight teams and clinched their ninth NCAC title.
Quinn Sholar ’26 was the star of the show, receiving the NCAC Men’s Field Athlete of the Year and All-NCAC honors after winning the shot put with a mark of 15.87 meters. Sholar also finished third in the weight throw, setting a season-best distance of 16.45 meters.
But there were winners all around for the Little Giants. In the men’s mile, Brayden Curnutt ’25 finished in first place with a time of 4:21.73. Curnutt was also part of the team that won the men’s distance medley relay. Alongside Diemer-McKinney, Will Neubauer ’25 and Howie Steele ’24, the quartet of Wabash runners finished almost five seconds ahead of second-place Oberlin with a time of 10:27.89. Wabash also won the 4×400 relay, the team of Neubauer, Steele, Nathan France ’24 and TK Walls ’23 finishing with a time of 3:23.18.
“The young guys on the team have done exactly what we asked them to do: don’t put pressure on yourself, just continue to have fun and work hard,” said Coach Morgan. “Those guys have done a phenomenal job stepping in and helping us win championships.”
In field events, Jake Oostman ’25 finished third in the long jump with a mark of 6.48 meters. Oostman also finished fifth in the high jump, while teammate Kannon Chase ’26 finished third.
With the indoor season fully wrapped up, the team now looks toward the outdoor portion of their year. The Little Giants open with trips to Eastern Illinois University and Murray State University on March 24-25. Wabash will host a home outdoor event later on this season, the Huntsman Family Invitational, which will take place on Saturday, April 8.