The outdoor season has been one of progress for the Marquette track and field team, and its coach, Bert Rogers.
After a disappointing finish to the indoor season where the men's side finished dead-last and the women managed second-from-last at the Big East Championships, the team literally had nowhere to go but up.
Coming off the dreary conditions of last weekend's Marquette Twilight meet at Valley Fields, the Golden Eagles head into this weekend's Big East Championships in Villanova, Pa. with a bit of experience. Weather forecasts predict rain, thunder, and lots of humidity, but don't expect it to affect the Golden Eagles too much.
"We're trying to keep our confidence up," said sophomore jumper Nick Byom. "The weather's been bad and hindered our performances, but we're trying to keep in mind we know what we're capable of and we're going to do it this weekend."
And they certainly are capable. The numbers are there. At the Big East meet in New York in February, Marquette sent only 24 athletes. In just a few short months, the team has added to the total, bringing it up to 28. They've even grabbed three NCAA Regional qualifying marks in outdoor, a feat that eluded the Golden Eagles in the indoor season. Season by season, the quality continues to improve and that couldn't please Rogers more.
"That's what we're always trying to do — continue to improve, and build on the year before," Rogers said. "The fact that we're doing it means we're doing something right and we want to continue that trend."
Leading the way for Marquette is none other than NCAA Regional Qualifier Jayne Grebinski, who has set the tone with her performances in the 3000-meter steeplechase. Competing in the event for the first time just a few weeks ago at the Georgia Relays, the junior set a personal record and days later was named Marquette's first-ever Big East Outdoor Athlete of the Week. But the pressure and the individual awards haven't gotten to her.
"I expect that I will go in feeling confident and relaxed and I think I'll do well because of it," she said. I'm not really expecting to hit any certain time, I just want to go out there and be competitive."
After being named the "Fastest Man in Milwaukee" a couple weeks ago at the MU Dual, sophomore sprinter Tyler O'Brien is riding high heading into Villanova. While he has the opportunity to set some personal records in the 100 and 200-meters, he's more worried about contributing to the team.
"I just hope to score in every event I'm in," O'Brien said. "I have a full weekend, so I'm going to build off the momentum of each race and hopefully score a lot of points for the team."
While the team probably won't have the depth to compete for the team title, it does have a wide-range of talented athletes with the potential to win an event on any given day. High-jumper Erynn James expects a top-three finish, and leading a group of exceptional seniors, thrower Jessica Ehlen can be counted on to give her all in her final conference meet.
While no one can be sure what will transpire this time around at the Big East Championships, one this is certain: the team is ready to show what they're made of.
"Good weather, bad weather, we've had everything this year," said thrower Jeff Kluge. "I feel prepared for whatever they can throw at us."