Low expectations, high hopes for track at Big East Championships

While all other sports are winding down, the Marquette track and field team heads to Cincinnati this weekend for the Big East Outdoor Championships.

A contingent of  32 athletes who qualified for the Big East will compete in 14 women’s and 12 men’s events. Marquette will send six fewer athletes to the Championships than last year and the team’s expectations are tempered.

“We’re not looking to do anything outside of what we have been doing,” coach Bert Rogers said. “We want to get personal records and those kinds of things, but our goal going in is focusing on the things that have made us successful, and performances take care of themselves.”

Rogers continued, saying teams run into problems when individuals try to go above and beyond what they normally do.

Junior Peter Bolgert is one of Marquette’s best hopes for a podium finish. Bolgert qualified with the 24th best time in the conference in the 1,500-meter race but will only compete in the 4×800-meter relay and his bread and butter, the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

He admitted he does get nervous before races, but Bolgert, who qualified for the Big East steeple with a time of 9:01.04 — the fourth best qualifying time in the conference — believes he can place in the top three.

“The steeplechase is on Saturday, and that’s going to be very competitive,” Bolgert said. “But if everything goes well, I think I can contend for third or higher.”

Senior Jayne Grebinski will close out her Big East career with Marquette by also running the 4×800-meter race and the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Grebinski qualified for the steeplechase by running a personal record 10:23.86 at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays, giving her the sixth fastest time in the Big East.

“There are quite a few girls competing this weekend that are in the top of the nation, so it’s going to be a very competitive race, but a very exciting race,” Grebinski said. “I’m looking forward to getting out there, running a fast time and hopefully scoring some points for my team.”

She will look to improve on her fifth-place finish in the event in last year’s conference championships.

Fellow senior Rachel Thiel will compete in a team-high three events this weekend: shot put, discus and hammer throw.

Thiel is among the leaders in the conference in all three events and recorded the fifth best throw in the shot put with a throw of 49 feet-1 inch. Thiel is also in the preliminary top 12 in both the discus and hammer throw.

“The shot put is definitely her signature event, but her discus and her hammer throw have really been coming along,” Rogers said. “I think she could score in all three.”

Senior Erynn James will only be competing in one event, the high jump, but it’s the one in which she earned a second place finish in last year’s edition.

James has been labeled an elite level high-jumper by Rogers, but is coming off an injury that could hinder her leap.

“Erynn is battling a bit of an injury,” Rogers said. “She injured her ankle at the last home meet, and we’re hoping it will be good enough for her to jump. She’s the No. 14 ranked high jumper in the whole nation, so she’s quite good.”