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The Scarlet & Black

Senior-led track teams show promise for outdoors in their performance at the Midwest Conference Championships

Emma Zimmerman ’18 and Mikayla Fujiwara ’20 were key contributors on the women’s team last weekend in Ripon. Contributed photo.
Emma Zimmerman ’18 and Mikayla Fujiwara ’20 were key contributors on the women’s team last weekend in Ripon. Contributed photo.

By Quan Tran

Last weekend, both women’s and men’s track and field competed in the annual Midwest Conference Indoor Championships at Ripon, Wisconsin. Despite finishing seventh and eighth in the team standings, respectively, both teams produced outstanding individual results which make their upcoming transition from indoor to outdoor much more promising. Particularly, Emma Zimmerman ’18 and Joel Baumann ’18 had career-best times in the 5000-meter and 800-meter events, respectively.

The women’s side enjoyed success on both days of competition. On Friday, the sprint medley relay team consisted of Lynn Nguyen ’20, Yolana Martin ’20, Rebecca Villa ’21 and Ally Cottrell ’21, and finished third with a time of 4:28.02. Even more impressively, on Saturday, in the distance medley relay event, Madeleine Breunig ’20, Gwen Holtzman ’19, Cottrell and Mikayla Fujiwara ’20 finished second at 13:02.12, only four seconds away from the win. Fujiwara also added a third-place finish in the 3000-meter event at 10:47.45.

Zimmerman finished second in the 5000-meter run field at 18:27.33. With this feat, the senior put herself in third place in the Grinnell women’s track program’s history. Women’s track Head Coach Evelyn Freeman doesn’t hide the astonishing fact of Zimmerman’s achievement, calling it a “gutsy performance.” Nevertheless, Zimmerman, in an email to The S&B, kept a very humble tone.

“It’s definitely special … and [exciting] when I have a successful 5k performance since [it’s] my favorite indoor event,” Zimmerman said. “At the same time, I realize there were parts of my race where I could have pushed harder or strategized better, which makes me excited to keep working on this event during outdoor.”

On the men’s side, Joel Baumann ’18 had a breakout performance. He, along with teammates Sean O’Reilly ’19, Kevin Anderson ’18 and Matt Lieberman ’21, finished third in the distance medley relay with a time of 10:37.77. Later on that very same day, Baumann placed third in the 800-meter run at 1:59.31, despite having to race from a slower heat. Speaking of Baumann’s individual performance, men’s track Head Coach Will Freeman expected nothing less from Baumann.

“He’s been showing in workouts that something big was going to happen … and [it did]. He’s going to be even better outdoors and could win it all,” Will Freeman said.

Baumann, however, seems to be enjoying more from his team’s holistic performance, putting more emphasis on team chemistry and contribution from his teammates.

“My second year I was on a distance medley relay team that [actually] won the conference. But in terms of how the team raced, [it] felt a lot more fun to be on [this team] because I felt like I contributed more. We were all kind of individually solid runners as opposed to [being] carried by one individual,” Baumann said.

With such performances as the teams transition themselves to the outdoor season, Evelyn Freeman is very optimistic in spite of the early challenges. In her 38th season as a coach for the Pioneers, she is no stranger to the fact that Grinnell’s indoor season is shorter than other programs because the College starts its spring semesters later than most other places.

“We were at a little disadvantage compared to the rest of the conference teams since practices start so late for us, but we were really surprised and excited with how well both teams did at conference,” Evelyn Freeman said.

Will Freeman also commented on the shortness of indoor track season, saying, “We don’t trivialize the indoor conference meet, but we also recognized we’re not where we’ll be in May.”

The track and field teams have about a month off from competition before outdoors is in full swing. This month of preparation for outdoors might just yield even more exciting performances come April and May.

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