Millikin runner Jake Shumaker’s path to becoming an All-American started on the soccer pitch
Shumaker recently set a school record in the 800 meters at the NCAA DIII Indoor Championships
by Matthew Flaten
DECATUR – The path to becoming an NCAA All-American runner for Millikin University’s Jake Shumaker didn’t begin on the track. Instead, he initially was a member of the Big Blue men’s soccer team before switching to track and cross country.
“In high school, I was predominantly a soccer player and came to Millikin to play soccer but track was always something I enjoyed and I loved to race,” Shumaker said. “After a successful track season my first year, I sat down with both coaches and discussed the different opportunities for the next fall. Cross country caught my eye with the opportunities to keep running. It was really hard to leave soccer but everyone on the track team had open arms.”
After qualifying for the 2022 NCAA DIII Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 800 meters last spring, Shumaker finished fifth in the 800 in the 2023 NCAA Divison III Indoor Championships on March 11 in Birmingham, Ala., becoming an All-American in the event.
“It was pretty special. Indoor Nationals was a completely different atmosphere with it enclosed and much louder,” Shumaker said. “I had 12 teammates come down and watch. It was an eight-hour drive both ways and they paid for their hotel and food themselves. It was really special to have my teammates willing to do that for me.”
Shumaker, who is originally from Mount Zion, Ill., set a school record in the event during the preliminary race to qualify for the finals and then beat his mark in the finals to set a new Big Blue top time of 1:50.43.
“Going in, I was pretty nervous and I couldn’t really eat my breakfast. I was in my head a little bit. I got a lot of positive emotions from my coach, my family and friends and everyone being in my corner,” Shumaker said. “I realized that this was no different than any other race; I was just competing against the best of the best in Division III.”
Shumaker credits Millikin Assistant Track Coach and graduate Ben Kuxmann ’22 with his improvement since joining the team. Kuxmann was also an All-American in the 800 meters and was the previous record holder in the event before Shumaker’s performance.
“Ben set a belief system in me, took me under his wing and trained me to step into that spotlight,” Shumaker said. “He helped set the belief in me that I could become a national qualifier and an All-American.”
Shumaker, a junior Computer Science Major, is taking a short break before the outdoor season ramps up and he has his eye on making a statement at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in May.
“The Indoor season has taught me that all of the training and trusting this process that Millikin has created is paying off,” Shumaker said. “(The track team) took in a soccer guy and brought me into their family and let me take on a leadership role. It has been a blessing to me.”