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Track and field put in strong performance at Conference meet

Women’s distance medley relay team, Ally Cottrell ‘21, Rebecca Villa ‘21, Micaela Daney ‘22, and Emma Schaefer ‘22, receive gold at conference meet.
Women’s distance medley relay team, Ally Cottrell ‘21, Rebecca Villa ‘21, Micaela Daney ‘22, and Emma Schaefer ‘22, receive gold at conference meet.

By Seth Bartusek

Both the men and women’s track and field teams delivered strong performances at the Midwest Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship that took place on Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23 at Monmouth College, with all 10 colleges in the Midwest Conference taking part.“The meet went really well. Both teams are trying to peak for this meet. It paid off as this year both teams did better than last year,” said Declan O’Reilly ‘21.

The highlight of the men’s weekend was an impressive victory in the sprint medley relay, run by Andrew Shults ‘19, Papa Kojo Ampim-Darko ‘19, Zach Willis ‘22 and O’Reilly. Their time of 3:38.32 was the fastest time in 10 years for the team, and eighth fastest in Grinnell College history. The Pioneer men topped off the weekend by finishing third in the 4×400 relay, with Tommy Jacobs ‘22, Ampim-Darko, Willis, and O’Reilly running the tenth fastest time in Grinnell history.

“In the sprint medley relay you can’t really make up distance on other teams through the first three [sprint] legs of the race, so it’s all about the last 800 meters,” O’Reilly said. “I was running the anchor and I got the baton in third place … halfway through the race, I had passed the Illinois College runner, and had caught up with the St. Norbert runner. I sat on his shoulder until about 75 meters were left and then turned on the jets.”

The women’s team went into the conference meet looking to end a title drought, and managed two impressive first-place finishes. Agne Lukoseviciute ‘21 came first in the weight throw with a toss of nearly 53.1 ft (16.18 m). This throw smashed Lukoseviciute’s previous Grinnell record and ranks 23rd nationally.

The second Pioneer’s victory came in the distance medley relay, when Ally Cottrell ‘21, Rebecca Villa ‘21, Micaela Daney ‘22 and Emma Schaefer ‘22 combined for a time of 13:02.24, ranking sixth all-time in Grinnell College history.

Villa was also pleased with the performance of the 4 x 400 relay team, who managed to win their heat and finish fifth overall. “[It] was a really big win for us, we hit a nine-second season best, and we did it with two alternates, [Francesca Dalla Betta ‘22 and Michi Soderberg ‘21],” said Villa. “Before the race, myself, Francesca, Michi, and Paige [Olowu ‘22], we were all checking in on each other, and we were all like ‘we’re tired but we have to give it all we’ve got’ and after I told them I don’t think they’re going to be alternates anymore.”

While the teams had spent the last few weeks tapering their workloads, many runners were still repeatedly called upon throughout the meet; some running as much as four races over the course of two days.

“Friday night I forced myself to eat a lot of pasta to make sure I had energy the next day,” Villa said. “I just try to jog around, talk to my teammates, stay confident, stay excited, it’s all mental.”

Overall, the team found that the meet capped off a successful indoor track and field season. While the outdoor season rapidly approaches, the teams can take a few days to enjoy the successes of the weekend.

“I think this tournament could be a really strong starting point for the next few seasons,” said Willis. “If we can build on the talent we have in the first and second year classes, I think this team will be really strong in the years to come.”

“We had 23 season bests, so overall it went super well for us, especially in terms of our performance last year. The bus ride home was so jolly. [Coach] Will Freeman bought us all ice cream to celebrate,” added Villa.

Both teams will be competing in the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Last Chance Meet this Saturday, March 2.

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