In their last test before this weekend’s Midwest Conference Championship, the Prairie Fire outdoor track and field team competed in the Central Open last Friday in Pella, Iowa.
Though the weather was better than the previous week’s meet, it still wasn’t ideal, with strong winds and cool temperatures making some events all the more difficult. Despite this, the team soldiered on, recording many personal bests and raising their confidence level before conference.
“We had numerous personal bests and great team support, which is hard to accomplish when it’s 50 degrees and the wind is topping out at 33 miles-per-hour, ” said freshman Joe Puntoriero.
Some unfamiliar names led the way at Central, with sophomore Tony Sickley recording a new personal best in both the javelin throw and the discus. Sickley’s javelin throw of 141 feet, two inches got him tenth place out of 18 athletes. In the discus, Sickley took 24th with a throw of 109 feet, 11 inches.
“Tony had a big day on Friday,” said co-head coach Dan Zierfuss. “He had his personal best in javelin by five feet, and his personal best in discus by 20.”
Fellow sophomore Lynn Mueller dominated the women’s long jump, taking second with a distance of 17 feet, 8.75 inches. Heading to conference, Mueller’s prospects of a top-three finish are high.
“Lynn’s got a chance to do something at conference,” Zierfuss said. “She’s tied for second in the conference right now.”
In the 100-meter dash, junior captain Claire Knowlton placed tenth with a time of 13.4 seconds. Sophomore Kristi Weller wasn’t far behind, taking thirteenth. Weller also did well in the 200 meter dash, recording a time of 27.8 seconds, good for a 15th place finish out of 37 sprinters.
On the men’s side, Puntoriero experienced a little bit of everything Friday. After a disappointing ninth place finish in the 400-meter dash, Puntoriero regrouped for the 200-meter.
“After the 400 I sat down with the team and decided I needed to focus on the 200 meter, clear my head from a bad race and run on and that’s exactly what I did,” Puntoriero said.
Puntoriero finished third in the 200, just .21 seconds off his personal best.
This weekend, the team will travel to Jacksonville, Ill. and compete in the Midwest Conference Championship. Puntoriero explained his mindset.
“The normal pre-meet nervousness is there,” he said. “But conference is just another meet. No one gets super speed or super strength before this one meet. It’s the culmination of the hard work each athlete has put in the entire season.”
For some members of the team, memories of their solid performance at the indoor conference championship linger.
“In indoor we placed sixth, and I know everyone on the women’s team is looking to move up,” said sophomore Emma Swanson. “I think our team is in the position to compete for a lot of points, and we have multiple women in the position to make the top three at conference, which is awesome.”
And for co-head coach Zierfuss, he wants his athletes to be keenly aware of the conference format and the advantages it poses.
“Going into conference, it’s anyone’s meet,” Zierfuss said. “It’s all about who wants to show up. Our athletes are in control, and if we go out there and perform, we know we can have some success. I’m pretty excited about what we can do.”