Marquette track and field hopes to continue its early season success with some wins this weekend as Coach Bert Rogers and his squad hit the road to Champaign, Illinois for the the Illini Classic.
As the season progresses, the schedule gets tougher, and so does the competition. The rules have changed for athletes to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship. Individuals must be ranked within the top 16 of their event to make it to the big stage.
If the championship season were to start right now, Marquette’s lone NCAA qualifier would be senior Patrick Maag in the 5,000-meter run, in which he is currently ranked 14th in the nation. Illinois has just one as well, with freshman Cam Viney ranked 14th in the 60-meter hurdles.
The meet should come down to Illinois and Marquette battling for the top spot. Lincoln, SIU-Edwardsville, SIU-Carbondale and Western Illinois are among the other schools competing at the meet this weekend. Western Illinois does have two athletes on the bubble with juniors Jamario Taylor and Nathaniel Marshall ranked 17th in the high jump and weight throw, respectively.
Rogers used the first week of practice after break to get rid of any rust from the athletes’ weeks off of school. Everyone from the sprinters to the throwers has at least one indoor meet under their belt for the season, so the focus shifts to getting into “competition mode,” Rogers said.
“It’s really in training for a lot of us,” Rogers said. “Over the next few weeks we should be rounding out in tip top shape for indoor season, putting down some big marks and Big East qualifying marks. Ultimately, we’re getting ready for Big East Indoors.”
The team’s underclassmen spent their break away from campus and had to practice on their own at home for the most part, but their fitness is coming around. There is still some experimenting going on with them and finding their niche.
On the women’s side, freshman Molly Hanson gets her first try at the 800-meter run after winning the 1,000-meter at the Badger Classic. Fellow freshman Kayla Spencer, who finished behind Hanson in that race, will add a few hundred meters to her next race in the mile, while freshman Kellie Greenwood subtracts and moves from the 3,000-meter to the mile.
The only freshman change for the men is Andres Tineo-Paz moving down from the 3,000-meter to the mile.
Three of the legs on the men’s A-team for the 4×400-meter run are redshirt sophomores or younger. Anton Rice, Glenn Lawrence, Connor Stengel and Kyle Winter put together the 65th best time in the nation two weeks ago at the Blue and Gold Invite. As long as they are healthy, they should be slated to race with the same team on Saturday.
Many of the field event participants will remain the same for Marquette.
Redshirt sophomore Bret Hardin continues climbing on the school’s all-time list for the weight throw. He will be in action at the Illini Classic along with fellow GoMarquette.com Performer of the Week freshman Tatyana Pashibin, who qualified for the Big East Championship with a jump of 5-feet-6-inches.
After down week, redshirt senior Lauren Darnall still has her sights set on her goal of clearing 13-feet in the pole vault and sees a tougher schedule as a good thing.
“I’m actually really excited for stronger meets, because I tend to do better when there are more people at my level,” Darnall said. “The last meet, there really wasn’t anyone where I was at. This meet I’ll be coming in around where others will be at, so for me that’s better, because I have some competition and someone to compete with.”