On Saturday, the Prairie Fire men’s and women’s indoor track and field season will begin with the Knox Pentangular meet at the T. Fleming Fieldhouse.
Boasting an exciting blend of youth and experience, both the men and women’s squads will look to improve upon their conference finishes from 2008-2009.
Adam Kent, a senior from Lake Stevens, Wash., should lead the men’s team. Kent will be looking to add to his already impressive legacy by besting his school record toss, 52’ 2 ½,” that won conference last season.
“My personal expectations are to defend my conference championship in the weight throw and make it to Nationals,” Kent said. “I also want to finish in the top three for shot-put.”
In addition to Kent, the men’s team will be led by sophomores Kevin Box, Dave Brankin, and Tony Sickley, junior Bill Schaefer, and seniors David Footle and Ryan Maniscalco. While the team’s success may rest largely on the shoulders of the returning veterans, the freshmen will contribute as well.
“I can’t think of any weaknesses at the moment,” Kent said. “Even with all of the new faces, we are meshing nicely, and we share a common goal, which is to finish higher in the conference tournament.”
On the women’s side, the goals are similar. Led by juniors Claire Knowlton and Tanya Novotnak, the women will be looking to replace the leadership and performance of Jaclyn Anderson, a member of the class of 2009.
“We’re focused on continuing to develop the talent that we have, while also improving our standing in the conference,” said Knowlton, a junior from Westlake, Ohio.
In addition to Knowlton and Novotnak, the roster features a bevy of underclassmen, including returning sophomores Emma Swanson, Chelsea Cooley and Laura Mills. Christina Davis and Mary Purrazzo are the lone seniors on the team.
“We have some really strong sprinters this year,” Knowlton said. “I’m looking forward to our relays, distance included. I think that will be our team’s strong suit.”
Despite the presence of so many freshmen and sophomores on each squad, co-head coach Patrick Irwin is excited about what the team’s younger athletes should provide.
“We’ve got a great group of kids, and some real strong first-year athletes,” Irwin said. “They should give our roster some depth and strength.”
The Prairie Fire will be aided by a schedule that features shorter road-trips and three meets at home, including the Midwest Conference Championships in February.
“Our entire indoor schedule is pretty easy, having those three meets at home,” Irwin said.
Having the season’s first meet at home will also allow for a smoother transition for the team’s many freshmen athletes.
“Having it at home, our younger athletes can ease in,” Irwin said. “It can get overwhelming at the bigger meets. The first meet is more of a glorified practice.”
While the meet itself will be more casual, co-head coaches Irwin and Dan Zierfuss expect big things from the Prairie Fire.
“Our upperclassmen are a year older and a year stronger,” Irwin said. “There’s a lot of potential on this team for great success.”
Knox will compete against Monmouth, St. Ambrose, Cornell and Iowa Wesleyan. Field events begin at 10 a.m., with the men’s and women’s weight throw. Track events will begin at 11 a.m., with the 55-meter high hurdles.