Marquette Wire

BIG EAST Indoor Track & Field Championships preview

Both MU teams hope to avenge last year's losses to Villanova

Junior+Joel+Swanberg+could+be+one+of+the+top+scorers+on+the+men%27s+side.+Photo+courtesy+of+Maggie+Bean%2FMarquette+Athletics
Junior Joel Swanberg could be one of the top scorers on the men's side. Photo courtesy of Maggie Bean/Marquette Athletics

Junior Joel Swanberg could be one of the top scorers on the men's side. Photo courtesy of Maggie Bean/Marquette Athletics

Photo by Maggie Bean

Photo by Maggie Bean

Junior Joel Swanberg could be one of the top scorers on the men's side. Photo courtesy of Maggie Bean/Marquette Athletics

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On a table behind Bert Rogers’ desk, there are four tall, black trophies topped with silver plaques with the BIG EAST logo. Toward the base of each trophy reads the inscription: “SECOND PLACE.”

After both the men’s and women’s teams finished second to Villanova at the indoor and outdoor championships last year, Rogers’ teams look to finally capture their first BIG EAST title this weekend at the indoor championships in Staten Island, New York.

“We’re a lot deeper this year,” Rogers said. “I’m feeling confident about where we’re at and hopefully we go in there and get the job done.”

In total, 70 Marquette athletes will travel to compete at the brand new Ocean Breeze Track & Field Complex. The Golden Eagles will need everyone to contribute if they hope to take down national powerhouses Villanova and Georgetown. Rogers said St. John’s also appears to be a favorite on paper for the women. When the top eight performers score and conference pride is on the line, every millisecond and centimeter matters.

“Our big focus as a team is to score a ton in the field events and we’re much improved in the sprints, so that’s what our identity is,” Rogers said. “We want to be strong in those power event areas, and I feel like we’ve shown improvement in the distance races. If we can start chipping away points out of those events, that’s probably what can put us over.”

The workhorses

Three Marquette athletes – junior Joel Swanberg, sophomore Will Eggers and freshman Monique Felix – will all compete in a staggering nine events over the two days. Swanberg is looking to repeat as heptathlon champion while adding 60-meter hurdles and pole vault to his workload.

“In his career, he has won all three of those at various stops,” Rogers said. “It’s one of those instances where we hope Joel’s going to have a good meet because if he does, that’s going to be a big boost.”

Felix, meanwhile, heads into her first conference championships determined to score big for Marquette. While she’s a favorite in the pentathlon, she also ranks in the top five in the long jump, triple jump and 60-meter hurdles. Rogers said there will be times Felix will need to leave her pentathlon event to go compete in the open long jump or open hurdles prelims.

“I think we tapered at the right time and that everything we have done at practice has gotten me ready to do the best I can,” Felix said in an email. “Luckily, I’ve completed one pentathlon before this so I have a better gauge of how I will feel physically … Also, knowing where I’m at in terms of fitness, I know it’s more mental than anything.”

The bread and butter

Last year, DePaul and Georgetown dominated the sprint events on the men’s side at the indoor championships. Senior Anton Rice finished seventh in the 500 meters, though he was just 2.34 seconds behind the first-place finisher. The 500 is an event run solely on the east coast (Midwest meets either runs the 400 or 600), so it takes a certain mindset to find a balanced attack.

“I truly treat it as a 400 where you go all out the entire way,” Rice said in an email. “The key is to get out fast and hold nothing back. If you get out too slow it’s too late to make up that ground because the race is so short; as compared to the (600) where you start a tad conservative. As I’ve always said, ‘run it like a (400) and hold with everything you got left on the extra 100 meters.’”

Running just one open event and the 1600-meter relay, Rice won’t be expected to carry the load alone. Rogers thinks junior Nick Ebert could surprise some people in the 400 meters. On the infield, freshman Killion McGinnis is a dark horse in the high jump and sophomore Max Bullard, who ranks in the top three in both shot put and weight throw, should have a solid performance.

On the women’s side, sophomore standout Cassy Goodrich is expected to throw down with the top sprinters from St. John’s and DePaul. Sophomore Maya Marion, coming off a season-best of 56-feet in the weight throw last weekend, should place well.

The point stealers

Since moving to the BIG EAST in 2005, Marquette has always been second-tier to Georgetown and Villanova on the men’s side and Providence, Georgetown and Villanova on the women’s side. Rogers is hoping his teams can steal some points in the distance events this year, an area that was their downfall last year.

Senior Nicole Ethier sits on the cusp of the top-eight in the 800 meters, while Rogers is hoping junior Brittney Feivor can return from injury with a vengeance in the 5,000 meters.

For the men, sophomore twins Alec and Aric Miller are favored to place in the 1,000 and 800 meters, respectively. Rogers also noted senior William Hennessy as someone who could surprise because he “seems to run his best races at the end of the year.”

Eyes on the prize

There are a ton of moving parts at track and field meets and strategy goes into every event. If all the pieces fall into place, the Golden Eagles could return to Milwaukee with some bigger hardware.

“Hopefully our trophy notches up a spot,” Rogers said. “I don’t know if they’re much different, but it’d be nice if it read ‘champion.'”

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