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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Track and field starts on the right foot

Connie lee Christine Ajinjeru ’14 trains in the Bear to achieve her goal of winning MWC championship. Photo credit Connie Lee.

The men’s and women’s track and field teams took home multiple awards last Saturday at Cornell College’s Hilltop Invitational in Mount Vernon, Iowa, breaking school records and setting a strong standard for the rest of the season. Notably, Frank Canady ’14 won the 3,000-meter run, and Christine Ajinjeru ’14 set a new Pioneer record in the 60-meter dash with a time of 8.33 seconds.

“We were pleased for our first meet,” said men’s team’s head coach Will Freeman. “Many did not run at Cornell, but all will run this weekend. Cornell gave us an indication of fitness and we are happy to see folks came into the season fit. We are excited to be at home this weekend.”

Other Pioneer finishes included Jake Lindstrom ’14, who placed third in the pole vault and Gavin Warnock ’14, who placed third in the long jump. Sarah Burnell ’14 and Eva Smith ’16 placed third and fourth in the 3,000-meter run respectively, and the women’s 4×400 relay team, comprised of Ajinjeru, Emily Clennon ’14, Nora Bresette-Buccino ’16 and Eloise Miller ’15, took home third.

“The whole team is so supportive, and everyone is always watching,” Ajinjeru said. “Having started as a first-year and going through as a senior, I feel like every year we get stronger and stronger.”

Both Canady and Ajinjeru usually run in longer events than they did this weekend—Canady competes in the 10,000-meter run, and Ajinjeru’s main event is the 200-meter dash—making their victories all the more impressive.

“My coach walked up to me after the 60-meter, and she said, ‘You ran a 8.33!’” Ajinjeru exclaimed. “I thought, ‘What does that mean?’ and she told me that it was the new school record.”

Ajinjeru has been competing in the 60-meter event to build her power for longer races and the tactic has paid off in both events. At the Hilltop Invitational, she also placed third in the 200-meter with a time of 27.41 seconds, which is the third fastest in Grinnell’s history.

Connie lee Christine Ajinjeru ’14 trains in the Bear to achieve her goal of winning MWC championship. Photo credit Connie Lee.
Christine Ajinjeru ’14 trains in the Bear to achieve her goal of winning MWC championship. Photo credit Connie Lee.

Similarly, Canady, who competes in cross-country during the fall, prefers longer races.

“To me, the 3,000-meter is actually pretty short,” Canady said. “The transition is pretty hard for me. It’s so much faster and so much shorter than the 10,000-meter.”

Difficult Midwest Conference competition has helped the team strive to develop their talents and push their limits. Even Canady feels like he can improve upon his first-place finish.

“It was a nice win,” he said. “The time wasn’t great for me, but it was the first meet [of the year], so there’s no problem.”

This Saturday, Feb. 8 Grinnell will be competing at home in the Grinnell College Invitational, as they prepare to host the Darren Young Invitational next week. The back-to-back home competitions are a reflection of the College’s superb track and field facilities inside the Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletic Center, which will be hosting the 2016 NCAA D-III National Indoor Track and Field Championship. The competition will be held in March of that year.

“It’s a showcase for the college, for our facility, for our program, for the community and even for Iowa,” Freeman said.

Grinnell has a history of hosting national meets. Most recently, the school hosted the same event in 2012, as well as the national cross country championships in 1990 and 1993.

“NCAA came to us requesting that we bid for [the position],” he said. “That tells us that they were happy with our last one.”

According to Freeman, while hosting the championships is a time to exhibit the College, enormous amount of work and planning is involved.

“You have to have a vision beyond the obvious,” he said. “It’s a large team committed to something and that something is not just notoriety of having the event but a showcase. It’s a sense of accomplishment to pull that off.”

After the two home competitions conclude, the Midwest Conference Indoor Championships will be just around the corner. Both Canady and Ajinjeru are optimistic about Grinnell’s chances for that meet.

“The goal is to win Conference,” Canady said.

“As a senior, it would be good to have a conference championship,” Ajinjeru said. “For the 4×400 event, we’ve won both the indoor and the outdoor conference title. It would be nice to retain that title and to culminate with top success, both in my individual events and in all other events, as well.”

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