Freshman Gabe Moreno said he was not sure what to expect going into his first college track meet. After his sterling debut Saturday, he knows he set the bar high.
Moreno broke the school’s record in the one mile run at Saturday’s Knox Invitational, finishing over two seconds ahead of the previous record, set by Tim Rairdon ’09.
“I felt good,” Moreno said. “The energy in the area was just incredible. Just going around every single turn and hearing someone yelling for me was insane.”
“For his first college track meet, breaking the school record in the mile was outstanding,” head coach Dan Zierfuss said. “He definitely exceeded my expectations.”
Moreno’s record-setting time of 4:35.08 earned him first place in the event, seven seconds ahead of the closest runner.
In his only other event—the 3000 meter run—Moreno finished third with a time of 9:17.03. That performance put Moreno eighth all-time at Knox.
Knox competed against four other schools: Monmouth, Iowa Wesleyan, St. Ambrose and Ashford. Though team scores were not kept, head coach Zierfuss was pleased with his team’s individual performances.
“We stood up against some very stiff competition, with Monmouth and some [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics] schools and held our own,” Zierfuss said.
“Saturday was definitely a good starting point for us, team-wise,” senior Claire Knowlton said.
Knowlton and fellow senior captain Bill Schaefer struggled on Saturday. Schaefer, returning after an injury-riddled junior season, finished ninth in the qualifying heat of the 55 meter hurdles, failing to reach the finals.
“I know both Bill and Claire weren’t happy,” Zierfuss said. “But Bill’s coming back from an injury, he hasn’t run track in a year, and he’s a little rusty.”
“We know nothing is going to be perfect, and the point wasn’t to be completely satisfied,” Knowlton said. “We wanted to see where we are now and where we have to be.”
On the women’s side, senior Chloe Bohm took third in the 400 meter dash. Junior Laura Johnson was fourth in the pole vault. And junior Kristi Weller and sophomore Sara Brown were seventh and eighth in the 55 meter dash, respectively. Junior Emma Swanson finished fourth in the women’s 800 meter run.
Besides Moreno, freshmen Matt Brongo, Tyler Buddell and Aramis McGinty shone in their collegiate debuts. Brongo finished second in the 800 meter run, with a time of 2:04.66. Buddell finished 10th in the one mile run, and McGinty finished fourth in the 55 meter dash.
Zierfuss was pleased with the performances of his freshmen. “Matt ran a very strong 800 meter,” Zierfuss said, “and I know he’s going to break the two-minute mark by the end of season. Aramis ran very fast, and I know he’s going to keep getting better and better. We’ve got to do a little bit of work with him on the blocks, but he’s going to be a very strong short sprinter for us.”
“Having freshmen come in who can push the upperclassmen is so helpful,” said Knowlton. “As teammates, we really need to be pushed in practice.”
“No one likes being beat[en] by a freshman,” Moreno said.
This youth movement has been key in the program’s revitalization. Knowlton, in her fourth year on the team, noted the difference between this year and three years ago. “The whole team atmosphere has really improved. It wasn’t a team atmosphere before, and now we work together, we support one another. I never would have thought it would get this much better in four years.”
“One thing [the coaches] have talked about is moving from a ‘running club’ mentality to a track and field mentality,” Moreno said. “Part of it is appearance, and part is performance. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Knox’s track and field team will compete this Saturday at the Midwest Invitational at Monmouth College.
“It’ll be another strong meet with strong competition,” Zierfuss said. “Monmouth is always tough, and we’ll see some [Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin] schools there too.”
Competition begins at 11 a.m.