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Grinnell hosts first annual Darren Young Classic

By Darwin Manning

Grinnell’s new Charles Benson Bear ‘39 Recreation and Athletic Center held its inaugural track and field event this past Saturday. The fieldhouse, completed near the beginning of last semester, gives Grinnell’s squad the chance to host meets, something that was impossible with the old PEC. It also allows them to recruit high school students and serve as a connecting force between the town and college.

Katie Fenster ’14 reaches out to hand off the baton to Sam Bates ’12 during the Women’s 4x400m relay at the 2011 Darren Young Classic – Ben Brewer

The Darren Young Classic is sponsored by alum Darren Young, who set several records as a sprinter and long jumper during his time at the College.

The construction of this new facility created a buzz around Division III teams, which attracted top colleges from across the country to the event. As a result of this excitement Grinnell will also host Conference on Feb. 25 and 26 as well as the Division III Indoor National Championships next year.

“It was a very special meet because we had teams in from Indiana, Texas, Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa, who all made trips in for this spectacular event,” said Head Coach Evelyn Freeman.

The response to the first meet in the fieldhouse was overwhelmingly positive from those in town, Grinnell College community members and those from visiting colleges. The event would not have been possible were it not for the work of the coaches, coaching assistants, student volunteers and the construction workers who built this gem—for which Grinnell is, rightfully, very proud.

“We have the Duke and the Dick, but we’ve never had an indoor meet so I think a lot of people from Grinnell and community came out to enjoy the facility,” said Maja Gamble ’11. “In the words of Coach Evelyn Freeman, ‘It showed the excellence of Grinnell through the sporting world.’”

Sarah Burnell ’14 runs the second leg of the 4×400 meter relay on Saturday after hav- ing won the mile earlier that day – Ben Brewer

The team has truly relished the opportunity to be able to train on such a fine facility, and many believe that it will allow the team to gradually get better.

“It’s a great training tool for us—the early season training is really important to us, and getting quality training in a facility like this is a huge benefit to us,” said Mike Tylinski ’11.

The first event, the pentathlon, was held Friday afternoon, with Isabelle Miller ’13, the only Grinnell competitor, finishing seventh, with a third place finish in the 800-meter run. The inaugural competition saw the setting of the best DIII seasonal mark and a school record for Ethan Miller from Cornell College.

“In the first event on our facility we had a season record. Additionally, a number of athletes qualified for Nationals outright,” Freeman said.
For Grinnell, Sarah Burnell ’14, won the women’s 1-mile race by 2.5 seconds, the second fastest indoor time in Pioneer history. Burnell’s time was second in the Conference and later she won recognition as the Midwest Conference top performer of the week.

Also in the mile, Leah Russell ’11 and Meg Rudy ’14 finished eighth and ninth, respectively. Jordan Young ’14 showed her prowess in the field events, placing herself in the Pioneer’s top ten for shot put and weight throw. There were many top-seven finishers including Sachi Graber ’12 with the pole vault and Miller in the 400 meter.

On the men’s side, Alex Reich ’11 and Shyam Deshpande ’11 earned fourth place finishes in the 5000 and 3000-meter, respectively. Also, in the 3000 the Pioneers had Erik Figge ’13 take eighth and Frank Canady ’14 took tenth. The men finished eighth overall with 12 points, while the women also took eighth with 15 points.

Though the team was excited about hosting their first event and the prospects of beginning a new season, the main focus was on personal records and continuing to improve for Conference.

“Until Conference most of our track teams are not about trying to win as a team, we are just trying to get in shape and get individual personal records,” Graber said.

The team as a whole, and especially the long distance group, knows not to move too quickly at the beginning of the season because of how long it lasts. As part of this strategy, they look to gradually build upon each meet and practice.

“For distance it’s such a long season so you have to take it slowly or you’ll get injured later on, but we’ve been steadily improving, dropping times and getting ready for Conference,” Deshpande said.

On the women’s side the middle distance runners are very pleased with their performance and hope that it steadily rises rather than tapers.

“I don’t think anyone expected our times to be as good as they are at this point, so I hope that this lasts or that we peak at the end of April into May,” Burnell said.

This weekend the team will look to set new records with the middle and long distance teams competing at University of Northern Iowa-Dome on Friday and the short distance and field squad heading to University of Dubuque on Saturday.

The teams are splitting up so that they can get enough meets in to qualify for Conference, which is a concern because of how late into track season the semester starts.

“These are not high-pressure races but really nice facilities where athletes can enjoy track and field and drop a few seconds here or there,”  Coach Freeman said.

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