Following a fast start to his first indoor track and field season at Knox, freshman Gabe Moreno was in a lull for a few weeks. After his performance at the Spartan Invitational, it might be safe to say he’s past that.
In his last warm up for the Midwest Conference Championship, Moreno set his second school record of the season, running an 8:58.55 in the 3000 meter run. Moreno’s time placed him eighth at the Spartan Open. Moreno broke the previous mark of 9:00.18, held by Paul Grinis ’00.
For Moreno, getting the record was a relief.
“It was nice to break the record, but it was really nice to break nine minutes,” Moreno said. “It’s a nice whole number to get past. Now that I’ve gotten past that I can just focus on racing at conference.”
Head coach Dan Zierfuss agreed.
“Gabe breaking the record in the 3k was exciting to watch,” Zierfuss said. “It was great to finally see him get it.”
Moreno had struggled in recent weeks, not meeting the lofty expectations he set with his record-breaking debut at the Knox Invitational on Jan. 15.
“I was kinda sluggish before this weekend,” Moreno said. “Part of that was because my spikes were shot and they were making my calves tighten up…but it’s nice to go through a little plateau. I’m hoping I can ride that peak for at least one more week and do well at conference.”
The meet was not scored on a team-by-team basis, but Zierfuss felt good about the team’s performance.
“We had good performances all-around,” Zierfuss said. “It was really good. We’re going in the right direction.”
“We had some good performances,” senior captain Bill Schaefer said. “Team-wise I would say it was a strong kind of ‘preparation meet’ before conference.”
On the women’s side, junior Kristi Weller finished fifth in the 55 meter dash. The 4×400 relay team finished in fifth place with a time of 4:20.83.
On the men’s side, sophomore Joe Puntoriero continued to improve, finishing fifth in the 500 meter dash and sixth in the 400 meter dash. Puntoriero also ran on the 4×400 relay team that finished in eighth place in Dubuque.
Their time of 3:32.01 places them fifth on Knox’s all-time list. Puntoriero was joined by freshmen Jmaw Moses, Bobby Mueller and Matt Brongo on the relay team.
Heading to this weekend’s conference championship, the team is hoping to stay rested.
“I know we’ve got some people who are a little sore,” Zierfuss said. “We’re going to be really smart this week with our training. We’ll do a lot of technical stuff and some pool workouts.”
“The workouts we did two weeks ago are what’s going to help us,” Weller said. “This is to keep us in shape.”
Schaefer stressed the importance of rest in preparation for conference. “A lot of the injuries people have aren’t season-ending injuries. A few days rest here and there will go a long way…also, since the meet is on Friday and not Saturday, we have to change the way we prepare. We need to make sure we’re ready to go Friday.”
The Prairie Fire are hoping to build on last year’s finish, when the women’s team finished fifth and the men’s team sixth. Schaefer hopes the team can continue the forward progress they have shown in his time at Knox.
“Since I started here as a freshman, both teams have been getting better and better,” Schaefer said. “And I think this weekend we can get the results we want.”
Weller was similarly confident. “I’m ready for it. I’m prepared and I know the team is prepared. We’ve been working so hard for it all season.”
The Midwest Conference Championship will begin Friday at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.