Another Midwest Conference Championship has come and gone, and with it the Prairie Fire track and field season winds down.
It was another year of great gains for a rebuilding Knox squad, as the small core of athletes did battle upon the grass and rubbery substance, whatever it is that tracks are made out of, and came away at the end of the year stronger than they have been in years.
“It was a good meet,” senior captain Mike Dooley said. “We just came out and competed. We didn’t have Rairdon’s fireworks (from last year), and no conference champ, but we had better depth.”
The team improved greatly from last year, as there were multiple performances that made noise in the rankings, as opposed to last year’s action with only Tim Rairdon doing any real damage. Sophomore Bill Schaefer placed sixth in the 400 meter hurdles with a time of 58.94 (after placing fourth in the prelims at 57.57.82) as well as sixth in the 110 meter hurdles at 16.40, and junior Adam Kent continued to put up historic numbers, throwing the shot put 13.99 meters, good enough for seventh in conference, and tossing the hammer 43.51 meters, placing him fifth for the year.
“I could have done better in shot and hammer,” Kent said. “I don’t know what was holding me back. (My goal) is two spins, and to reach in the high hundreds (with the hammer).”
A team of only 28 people, when facing other squads that had upwards of 100 athletes, the Prairie Fire had several people, like Schaefer and Kent, who were doubling or tripling up on events. Senior Jaclyn Anderson was the epitome of this, as she participated in the 200-meter, the high jump, long jump, triple jump, and the javelin. She placed seventh in the finals of the javelin, and third in the long, high, and triple jumps. It summed up the basis on which the Knox track team is forced to sculpt itself into, having athletes of variable talent.
“She was a Jack of All Trades,” Dooley said of his teammate. “It was impressive.”
The final scores of the day saw the women’s team earn 30 points, good for seventh in the conference, while the men earned 13 points, also good for seventh. Kent and Schaefer were the only men to score for their team. Even so, there were solid, and obviously rising in ranking performances throughout the field.
“I would rather have quality over quantity, any day,” Schaefer said. “I’m happier with 20 kids who bust their ass than 100 kids with no chemistry and no camaraderie.”
Other finishes of note include sophomore Chloe Bohm, who placed seventh in the 400 meter and 10th in the 800 meter. Senior Karen Brophy, who is participating in the Last Chance Meet this Saturday, placed 12th in the 10000 meter and 10th in the Steeplechase.
With the end of a college sports season, there is some loss due to graduation, but if anything, the team is getting stronger than ever, with 18 top-flight recruits coming in the fall. On top of the steady and building improvement of the team, the Prairie Fire track stars look to be a real force next year. Already, they rise above the challenges their coaches put forth.
“We have a small team, but everyone has performed the best they could, if not more-so,” Dooley said. “Times just kept getting faster and faster.”
Though Dooley is leaving to greener pastures, fellow captain Schaefer remains to aid coaches Irwin and Zierfuss in crafting a finely tuned machine that can mow down the likes of Monmouth and Carroll in the coming years.
“I’m just going to work hard over the summer,” Schaefer said. “We’ll come back next year and leave it all on the track.” Or field, as the case may be.