Marquette Track and Field: Sprinters moving forward without O’Brien

For the first time since 2008, the Marquette track and field team will be without Tyler O’Brien as part of the its sprinting squad. Senior Kyle Winter returns as the most experienced sprinter and hopes to fill O’Brien’s shoes as captain of the 2012-13 season with the help of his fellow sprinters.

“I’m really glad that people on the team chose me as someone to look up to,” Winter said. “I definitely think – at least since I’ve got here – the program at Marquette has been really turning around.”

The early goal that Winter has set for himself is to defend his 2012 Big East Championship title in the 800-meter race.

Throughout the fall, Winter has been running with freshmen Anton Rice and Ryan Shields. Looking back at his own training from a few years back, Winter said Rice is much further ahead in his training than Winter was as a freshman. Rice could contribute team points in the 800-meter and 500-meter races.

Winter, Rice and Shields make up the longer distance sprinting group. Other contributors from the sprinting core come from the runners who specialize in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races.

Redshirt sophomore Connor Stengel posted the ninth-best time in school history for the 400-meter dash — 49.32 — in his first indoor season for the Golden Eagles. He redshirted his freshman indoor track season due to hamstring issues. If he can stay healthy for a full season, he could be a candidate to make the 400-meter final at the Big East Championships.

One surprise for the team in 2011-12 was Glen Lawrence arriving on the team as a walk-on and then going on to running the 10th-fastest time in Marquette history in the 60-meter dash. With a year of experience under his belt, he will most likely be relied on again in the team’s 4×400-meter relays.

The women’s squad has a much younger look in the longer sprints, as sophomores Katie Tolan and Krista McClure are the returners in those distances.

If the fall training is any indication of what is ahead in 2012-13, coach Bert Rogers said he sees this as a rebound year for Tolan.

“Katie Tolan has had a fantastic fall,” Rogers said. “She was really good as a high school senior but did not have a good freshman year here. With some of our fall testing, we’ll do a 600-meter time trial. She ran the second fastest I’ve ever had, and I’ve coached school record holders.”

Freshmen Laura Schweikert and Nicole Ethier have been added to that group as well. Both ran more 400-meter races in high school, but the early meets could add to the experimentation of moving them up in distance. Ethier started to race the 800-meter as a senior and posted a time of 2:17.88.

Experience will not be lacking on the shorter sprint side as juniors Kate Hein and Gretchen Homan look to add to their No. 3 all-time marks in Marquette history in the 500-meter and 400-meter races, respectively.

Senior Chanel Franklin has different workouts as a much shorter distance focus. She has been working out with Carlye Schuh, who was named Marquette’s most valuable performer last year.

Schuh splits time on the track while also practicing as a jumper. She said hitting the Big East qualifying mark early is a plus to the individual focus.

“It’s a big accomplishment, and just to get it out of the way early is a huge relief,” Schuh said. “You can then concentrate on different events. Within the event, it doesn’t put as much pressure on you to go in and hit that mark.”

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