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Track and Field: Big East Indoor Championship Preview

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Photo courtesy of Marquette Images

Photo courtesy of Marquette Images

Marquette track and field travels to Geneva, Ohio, this weekend for the 2013 Big East Conference Indoor Championship at the Spire Institute. The team hopes to better its finishes from last year, when the men finished seventh and the women finished 13th overall.

“We obviously graduated Tyler O’Brien and Jonathan Kusowski, who were two big guys for us, but we have these younger guys ready to step it up,” coach Bert Rogers said. “It’s hard to compare (last year’s and this year’s teams) directly, but I like our chances.”

Senior Kyle Winter captured Marquette’s first ever Big East crown in the men’s 800-meter race last year over Pittsburgh’s Davonte Cowsette at the finish line. Cowsette and four of the nine finalists from last year graduated.

The next best returner after Winter is Connecticut sophomore Alex Bennatan, who finished fourth. Villanova junior Ellison Samuel currently holds the conference best time with 1:48.62.

Freshman Anton Rice cannot be counted out early. Depending on how the preliminary heats go, there is a possibility he could sneak into the finals with a smart race. Although Rice is only a freshman still learning the race, his closing speed could be his secret weapon.

“The preliminary rounds are usually pretty tactical,” Rogers said. “With his ability to kick, if he can just keep himself in the mix, I like his chances.”

Assistant coach Mike Nelson said having a deep middle distance squad at the conference championship is important with many races from 500 meters to 3,000 meters.

“There are six or seven middle distance events, and just because someone qualified in one of them, they might do a different event,” Nelson said. “Sometimes people do just the relays.”

Redshirt junior Spencer Agnew and junior Mitch Lacy will be racing in the distance medley relay. Lacy will recover and get back on the track for the men’s 4×800-meter relay.

Big East qualifiers lead to flexibility in what events can be run at the conference championship. Someone like redshirt sophomore Brendan Franz qualified in the 800-meter run and will be racing in the men’s 1,0000-meter run.

Some of the upperclassmen will stick with their qualifiers and double up. Seniors Patrick Maag and Connor Callahan and junior Jack Senefeld will race the men’s 5,000-meter on day one and return for the men’s 3,000-meter on day two.

High jumpers Michael Saindon and Cheldon Brown head into the weekend tied with the fifth-best marks in the Big East. Personal bests by half an inch could get them in contention for a third place finish.

Similarly, the weight throwers squad is right in the middle of the top performers list and pushing for a personal best could get them in contention for a top five place. Last year junior Kristen Gaffey scored the only throwers’ points with her toss in the women’s shot-put.

This year’s women’s squad could have more scoring contenders, as junior Carlye Schuh enters with the fourth-best long jump mark.

The 500-meter dash can be deep some years and less so during others. Junior Kate Hein could be in the mix for a spot in the finals with a good race.

On the women’s distance side, freshmen Molly Hanson and Kayla Spencer have run most of the indoor meets after a long cross-country season. Their focus has not changed this week in practice with yet another conference championship ahead.

“Both of them are doing what they always do,” Nelson said. “They’re training hard and training consistently.”

The meet begins at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, with Marquette sending its first athlete to the track at 1:20 p.m. for the women’s 500-meter dash.

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