First time in a long time seemed to be theme among Knox athletics this weekend. While the baseball team was busy completing a rally of substantial proportion over on Blodgett Field, the Knox track team was concerned with their own duties as they played host to the Midwest Conference Championships for outdoor track and field. This weekend marked the first time Knox has hosted the event in 15 years and was also a first opportunity for many to see the new facilities of Trevor Field.
While there was no overall conference championship claimed on the track, individual accomplishments highlighted the events of the two-day affair for Knox College. Seniors Tim Rairdon and Pam Bell both took home individual championships to lead the Prairie Fire, who’s deceiving finishes (men’s eighth, women’s ninth) promised more for the future than one may assume.
“I think everyone did pretty well,” said Bell. “Especially with the small numbers that we had in comparison to some of the other competing teams, I think we surprised ourselves. I think that we had expectations going into this past weekend and surprised ourselves with the performance we gave.”
Bell, who has been battling a stress fracture in her foot for the last two to three years, was pleased with her capturing of the long-jump title with a mark of 17 feet, 3.50 inches. Describing the injury as one of a nagging sort, Bell said that while it was not easy, it was simply a matter of deciding whether she would sit out or make the necessary adjustments to carry on. In the end, Bell said, “I didn’t want to sit out my senior year, so I did what I had to, to tough it out and get through it.”
Modest in regards to her title, Bell was certainly grateful for having finished on top.
“I was a little lucky, to be honest,” she said. “I honestly didn’t think I would do that well, but I’ve been doing a decent job in the competitions that I’ve competed in, and I just went out there with the intent of giving it my all. After all the hard work and going through everything I’ve gone through, it was nice to bring everything full circle.”
When asked what she saw in the future for Knox track and field, Bell seemed genuine in her assertion that this season would serve as a turning point for the program.
“We’ve gone through a lot of changes, but I think we’ve gone through the worst of it, and it seems like the only place we have to go is in a positive direction,” said Bell.
Bell also made mention of how important the addition of the two new head coaches, Patrick Irwin and Dan Zierfus, and their philosophies were and will be for changing the face of the Prairie Fire program.
“The coaches have been good for us. They’ve come in fresh with a new mentality, so I think the future is looking pretty good,” said Bell. “I think that the hard work that we put in will pay off. I think the people have realized the efforts we’ve put forth, and I think that that will attract new runners.”
Both Bell and Rairdon will have the opportunity to compete once more this weekend in the Last Chance Twilight Qualifier meet at Augustana.
Rairdon, who captured an individual title in the 800-meter event, also broke two school records that stood for over a decade. Previously held by Brian Campbell, Rairdon broke the records for the 800-meter and 1500-meter events, each by a substantial margin. Missing the NCAA National provisional qualifying times by less than two seconds with each time, Rairdon will have one last opportunity to qualify on Friday.
Bell will also have an opportunity at breaking a school record in the 200-meter event, as well as attempting to qualify for the National competition. In order to do so, Bell will need to stretch her mark to 18.5 inches; certainly a challenge, but most certainly attainable.
The Last Chance Twilight Qualifier will be held at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. Competition begins at 4:00 p.m. Please support our seniors, in person, or well wishes as they vie for yet another opportunity to continue their success. Best of luck.