MU opens outdoor season with strong effort

The track and field teams competed in the first two outdoor meets of the season over spring break, the USF Open on Friday, March 11, and the USF Bulls Invitational on Friday, March 18, finding success at both. Marquette only sent throwers to the first meet, and sent a full team to the second.

While both runners and throwers competed well, it was the throwers who stole the show over break, winning four events at the USF Open and setting numerous records.

The man who led the way for the throwers was freshman Bret Hardin, who competed for the first time as a Golden Eagle at the USF Open. Hardin competed in the hammer throw in both meets and came home with two second place finishes and two freshman records.

“Bret had a nice first two meets wearing the blue and gold,” said coach Bert Rogers. “He set two freshman records, one by about 20 feet. So it was a pretty nice job by him.”

In the USF Open, he recorded a throw of 180 feet, four inches, placing him seventh all-time in program history among freshmen. In his second meet at the Bulls Invitational he moved into fourth place by throwing 184 feet, one inch.

“I had a couple of really good weeks of practice,” Hardin said.  “Things were going really smoothly, and when we finally got to the meet everything came together pretty nicely and I got some good throws out,” Hardin said.

Other top performers at the USF Open for the Marquette throwers were redshirt junior Jonathan Kusowski, who took first in the hammer throw, and redshirt junior Robert Bleem, who took first in the discus.

For the women, senior Jamie Roth took first in the hammer throw and set the seventh-best all-time mark in the same event at the Bulls Invite, and freshman Kristen Gaffey took first in the shot put at the USF Open. Rogers said their performance was the culmination of their intense preparation.

“A lot of the throwers, especially those that redshirted indoors, have been practicing these events for quite a long time now, so it makes sense that they would compete as well as they did,” Rogers said.

There were also many good performances on the track in the Bulls Invite. Freshman high jumper Michael Saindon set a Big East qualifying mark of six feet, 6 ¾ inches.

Sophomore Chanel Franklin posted the fourth-fastest 200-meter dash in school history (24.53 seconds).

Some of the best performances of the Bulls Invitational came from sophomore Kyle Winter and junior Tyler O’Brien.

“We got Tyler back after he redshirted indoors. For him to come out first meet back and compete like he did is really great,” Rogers said.

O’Brien qualified for the Big East Championships in both the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash. Winter also had a very good meet competing in the 400-meter dash, where he ran the eighth-fastest time in school history (48.73 seconds).

“I broke the top 10 mark in the 400, which was a goal of mine,” Winter said. “I qualified in the 400, which was also a goal of mine. Also, we ran a good 4×400 between Tyler O’Brien, Connor Stengel, Aryan Avant and myself. So we went out and got it all done.”

Marquette will not be competing in the Stanford Invitational this weekend as regularly scheduled, and will instead return to competition two weeks from now at the Oliver Nioloff Invitational, Saturday, April 2, in Cincinnati, Ohio.