Coming off a challenging, university-laden field at the Lee Calhoun Invite, the Prairie Fire outdoor track and field team had to regroup and refocus against more familiar competition at last week’s Dick Young Classic at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.
Freshman Joe Puntoriero led the Prairie Fire, finishing fifth in the 200-meter dash and second in the 400.
Puntoriero’s time of 50.09 seconds in the 400-meter dash put him fifth all-time on the individual record list. It was also a personal best for the freshman from Cheektowaga, New York.
“I was happy with my performance,” Puntoriero said. “But I’ve been taught by family and friends to always strive for the top and never settle. There’s always room for improvement.”
“Joe’s performance was great,” said co-head coach Dan Zierfuss. “He is capable of doing a lot this year and it’s really encouraging for our program to see that kind of performance from a first-year.”
Overall, the Prairie Fire performed well in a meet with junior college and NCAA Division II talent.
“I was pleased,” Zierfuss said. “Grinnell’s a huge meet, and definitely a chance to compete against top talent. We held our own.”
“Overall, it was a great meet,” Puntoriero said. “The team was phenomenal.”
The Prairie Fire changed it up a bit this week, focusing more on the open races and holding back their relay teams.
In the women’s 200-meter dash, freshman Lizzy Warner took 17th. Sophomore Laura Mills placed 22 out of 38 sprinters. In the women’s 400, Warner took 12th out of 23. Sophomore Emma Swanson placed seventh in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.
Three meets into the season, Zierfuss feels good about the direction his team is headed.
“We’re at about the halfway point, so we’re starting to look at each meet a little differently,” he said. “We’re trying to fine tune, to improve our times, prepare the team for conference.
“Everyone knows the big meet is coming up, so as far as attitude goes, we’re really excited.”
Beyond this season, Puntoriero made his goals for Knox College track and field clear.
“I want the other teams in the conference to know that Knox has the athletes to compete with the strongest,” he said. “I want us to be on the radar for every conference runner, knowing that we will always give them a hard race.”