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Marquette Track and Field: Team finds long distance edge at Meyo Invitional

Christopher Chavez

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At Marquette’s last visit to South Bend in December, the sprinters headlined the visit with record-breaking performances and Big East qualifying times. This weekend’s Meyo Invitational was similar for Marquette with five new Big East qualifiers, but this time the distance runners did the damage.

“We had lots of (personal records) on the men’s and women’s side and some big performances,” coach Bert Rogers said. “I really came away from the weekend feeling pretty good about where we’re at and where we’re going. It’s tough to pick out any great singular performances since there were so many of them.”

Before the meet, redshirt junior distance runner Jack Hackett said the distance runners had to be at the front of the pack from the get-go to be successful.

Instead, senior Blake Johnson and many other distance runners started the 5,000-meter race in the back of the pack. With about six laps to go, Johnson separated himself from the other Marquette runners and thrust himself into the front with runners from schools like Kentucky and Purdue at the front. Johnson eventually finished fifth.

Johnson said starting slow and making his move later in the race is his style.

“I’m more of a strength runner. I usually show through in the middle of the race. I don’t have as good of a kick as some of the other guys,” Johnson said. “My strategy was to be in the middle of the race and slowly work my way up. Since I started too far back, I couldn’t make my way to the leaders.”

His finish (14:26.76) was .01 seconds off his personal best and .02 seconds off of the third fastest 5,000 in school history.

While Johnson finished fifth in his race, Hackett won the men’s mile and recorded a personal best (4:06.69) and Marquette’s third fastest indoor mile.

“Jack (Hackett) winning the open section of mile was a very nice race,” Rogers said. “I think that sets him up pretty nicely for the Big East (Indoor Championships) in a few weeks.”

Junior Kyle Winter’s performance in the 800-meter run also warranted attention.

Winter was unseeded in the 800, which he won at last year’s Meyo, but he faced elite competition and still led the race for the first three-quarters, but faltered in the last quarter.

Winter finished 10th (1:50.62).

“It was nice going into the last 200 (meters), but I thought that I could actually take the cake (Saturday), but I didn’t have that big of a kick,” Winter said. “That’s fine by me, because I did PR by a full second, so I’m happy with that.”

Winter’s time puts him in third place all-time in the Marquette record book.

Rogers left South Bend feeling good about the team as the Big East Indoor Championships approach. One last meet in Indiana remains before heading to New York, but for many it will be a week to rest and mentally prepare for what lays ahead.

“A lot of the team will be off. The folks that are competing this weekend is more of a chance for those that haven’t qualified to go out and get that,” Rogers said. “For the most part it’s going to be the last tune-up, as we get ready for conference working out the final kinks. The focus this weekend is the final preparation for Big East.”

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