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Track and field rack up first-place finishes at Grinnell Invitational

Paige Olowu ’22 claimed first place in the triple jump during the Luther Invitational Meet. Contributed by Ted Schultz

The seniors on the Grinnell College women’s track and field team are making their last season count with first-place finishes from both Paige Olowu `22 and Sarina Kopf `22 for their field events. At the Grinnell Invitational last Saturday, Jan. 29 Olowu covered 10.43 meters for the triple-jump event and Kopf `22 cleared 3.28 meters in the pole vault event. These strong performances are coming after Olowu and Kopf got first in the long jump and pole vault, respectively, at the previous Hilltop Invitational that kicked off the spring season. The team finished second overall at the Grinnell Invitational and placed third at Hilltop.  

For the track and field athletes, this will mark their first full season in two years. The previous 2020 and 2021 seasons have either been cut short or been held in modified versions during the early stages of managing the COVID-pandemic.  

Kopf is among the many student-athletes relieved about having a normal season again: “My last personal best was set the week before we got sent home for COVID. So, I was really poised to have a great season, and pole vaulting is really hard because you require so much equipment. It’s not like running where you need shoes and a place to run, you need a pole and a pit. And even when you can find poles and a pit, you need a coach because of the liability of getting hurt.”  

Olowu `22 also expressed her excitement with the full-length. “I feel much more mentally prepared and physically prepared to compete for the duration of the entire indoor and outdoor seasons,” she said.  

Asked about whether she believes that she can reach another personal best in her final season, Kopf said, “my philosophy with pole vault in general is that when you start to focus on the height, you kind of self-sabotage because you’re never going to clear a bar that you are looking at. When you think about technique instead, that really sets you up well, and then you happen to clear the bars that you want to clear.”  

While the fourth-years have been taking care of business, the entire team is very hopeful about future of their program, especially with the large incoming classes of student-athletes. Olowu and Kopf both explained the benefit of having a rejuvenated team. “I think in some teams it might be a disadvantage to be very young, but I feel like these [younger] teammates have a very optimistic outlook on the season just because they haven’t competed in a long time and they are coming in with no preconceived conceptions,” said Olowu.  

“Our first-year squad this year is really, really strong, and I think that their performances will definitely boost us in the conference. I think especially the trajectory that they got us on will hopefully help us perform a little bit better at conference in the future,” said Kopf. 

 In addition, Kopf said that she anticipates growth in the program’s Sprinting performances: “Grinnell already has a solid distance program, but I think the Sprint’s is where you’re going to start see a lot of improvement in the future,” she said. 

The track and field women’s and men’s teams will be hosting the Darren Young Invitational at the Bear Athletic Center’s Field House on Feb. 12 Kopf hopes this meet can bring a large set of competitors especially for her own event which usually has low turnout depending on the number of colleges in attendance. “Next weekend is going to probably be the most competitive one, something like eight schools and hopefully there’s going to be 10-15 Women pole vaulters instead of four. So yeah, I’m definitely excited about that,” Kopf said.  


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