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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Track & Field Milwaukee natives compete in hometown event

John Pitta, a Milwaukee native, competes in the 2023 Big East Championships. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Marquette track & field athletes from Milwaukee got the chance to compete in their hometown meet Saturday at the John Tierney Classic, hosted by cross-town rival University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

It’s a rare opportunity for the Cream City-native Golden Eagles to compete in hometown events — Saturday was the first of two indoor meets in Milwaukee this season — so it is a meet they look forward to competing in more than others.

Milwaukee native Lexi Keppler said she enjoys competing against friends and family from other schools in the area.

“It’s so fun because I feel like all of our schools are very close together, distance wise, so there’s a lot of overlap when it comes to people with siblings who are on different teams,” senior distance runner Keppler said. “So it’s really fun to race against people that you know.”

First-year Joshua Bailey Jr. seconded Keppler, saying it’s cool to compete at the collegiate level against people he ran against in high school.

“That’s a unique experience, unlike going somewhere down south or on the east coast with track & field,” Bailey Jr. said.

Sophomore jumper John Pitta said he appreciates the upbeat atmosphere of Milwaukee track meets, where positive energy from the crowd fuels his passion for running.

“I will say it’s very fun and positive, there’s a lot of nice people on our track team specifically that make it fun to do,” Pitta, whose parents graduated from UWM, said. “It’s a real great atmosphere to be around.”

Pitta used that energy during the classic to grab second place in the men’s triple jump with a mark of 44-08.50. Keppler, with her family in attendance, also grabbed second place during the meet, in the one mile run, with a personal record time of 5:15.32.

“It’s awesome,” Keppler said about running in front of her family. “My parents, they both run. So they just love watching me compete. And it’s always fun having them.”

But it is not just her family she benefits from, Keppler also has fond appreciation for the greater Milwaukee running community and culture, which she said helps to keep her motivated to keep working.

“Regardless of the weather, people are always running, making it very conducive to training,” Keppler said. “I keep in touch with my high school coach, Joe, and he’s always been helpful.”

Pitta, who also shares a deep connection with the vibrant culture of Milwaukee, said that the city’s cultural influence elevates him to a higher level of competitiveness and intensity in the sport.

“Being up here in the cold and having to work really hard, I personally feel it puts me at a high level of grit,” Pitta said. “Making sure I work hard because it’s cold up here, it’s a different atmosphere. Growing up in Milwaukee, you have to go and get what you want. That’s how I go for it.”

Bailey Jr. said the city’s support follows him out-of-state.

“They really support us especially when we all got our NIL deals at our Marquette store shop,” the first-year sprinter said. “We sent it out to all our coaches, all the families, they all click the link, share the link with people from the Milwaukee (area), whether it be your coaches or high school coaches.”

Marquette has one more indoor meet in Milwaukee this season — the Panther Tune-Up on Feb. 17, the final competition before the Big East Championships — and it is one Keppler, Bailey Jr. and Pitta will all be looking forward to running in.

“It’s (MKE meets) better because you get support (from) your own family, your friends,” Bailey Jr. said. “People you grew up with come to watch you and support you. And obviously they could come out to see you if you go out of state, but it’s a different feeling just doing it in the city you were raised in, grew up in.”

This story was written by Dakota Barnes-Rush. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X @DakotaRushMU.

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Dakota Barnes-Rush
Dakota Barnes-Rush, Sports Reporter
Dakota Barnes-Rush is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin but lives in Miami for 9 years. He's majoring in journalism and is a sports reporter for the Marquette Wire. Outside of the Marquette Wire he enjoys watching the NBA, YouTube and hanging out with friends. Dakota is most excited about learning more about each individual sport he covers. He believes the more he knows about the sport the more successful his stories will be.

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