In track and field, the worth of a season is decided in just two days. For Knox, last weekend’s Midwest Conference Championships in Grinnell, Iowa was a harsh reminder of what can go wrong in such a short timeframe.
Knox’s women’s team finished in eighth place, ahead of just one other team, Lawrence University. The men’s team finished in last place, five points behind eighth place Beloit College. Monmouth College won both the men’s and women’s championships for the tenth consecutive year.
“We ran season-best times and had season-best marks in a lot of events,” head coach Dan Zierfuss said. “We were hurt point-wise though, as we had a lot of people just miss the finals.”
“Coach Zierfuss has said all season long that it’s anyone’s meet, since it’s only two days,” senior Claire Knowlton said. “Really, if you do well at conference it doesn’t matter what you did four weeks ago. And we saw it was anyone’s meet, we just didn’t have it going.”
Despite a poor team finish, the Prairie Fire had some strong performances. In the 1600 meter women’s sprint medley, Knox’s team of junior Kristi Weller, seniors Knowlton and Chloe Bohm and junior Emma Swanson finished fourth. Their time of 4:19.81 broke the school record of 4:20.69, set in 1999.
“The [sprint medley relay] is a tough race because it’s never run during the year,” Knowlton said. “But we handled it well. Emma was awesome in the 800 meter leg.”
“It was a huge positive to start off the meet on Friday,” Zierfuss said. “That was a school record from 1999…it was just a great start.”
The women’s 800 meter relay team of Weller, Knowlton, junior Laura Johnson and senior Sara Brown also finished in fourth place with a time of 1:53.53.
Individually, Bohm finished ninth in the 400 meter dash. Swanson was also ninth in the 800 meter run. Weller finished 14th in the 200 meter dash.
Knowlton emphasized that, though the team was disappointed in its finish, the competition in the Midwest Conference was stronger this season than last.
“We were a bit shocked at how much better the conference had gotten,” Knowlton said. “It was much more competitive.”
In Knowlton’s events, this was true. Knowlton’s time of 9.57 seconds in the 55 meter hurdles did not qualify for the finals. Knowlton needed a 9.17 to qualify. Last season, 9.54 made the finals.
This was also true in the 55 meter dash. Weller narrowly missed qualifying for the finals with a time of 7.77 seconds, a time that would have qualified last year.
The men’s team was led by a pair of freshmen, Gabe Moreno and Matt Brongo. Brongo’s time of 2:00.88 in the 800 meter run was good for eighth place in the MWC. It was the sixth best time in school history for the event. Brongo also ran in the sprint medley relay. Knox’s team of senior Courtney Jude, sophomore Joe Puntoriero and freshmen Brongo and Jmaw Moses finished in sixth place. Their time of 3:43.56 was the fourth fastest in school history.
Moreno finished in eighth place in both the 3000 meter run and 5000 meter run. Moreno’s time of 9:05.84 in the 3000 meter run was his third best performance of the season—and the seventh best in school history. Moreno now owns four spots in the top ten best times in the 3k.
The men’s distance medley relay team of Brongo, Moreno, Moses and freshman Bobby Mueller finished in eighth place in the MWC but recorded the second best time in school history, 10:57.22.
Despite a ninth place finish, Moreno felt the team could learn something from the poor performance.
“Obviously last isn’t what we were hoping for,” Moreno said. “We learned a lot about competition, about team chemistry.”
While the indoor season has ended for Knox, they are already practicing for the upcoming outdoor season. Both Moreno and Knowlton were hopeful about the outdoor season.
“I think team-wise we’re really focused on changing our attitude,” Knowlton said. “We really feel if we change our work ethic and have more accountability that’s really going to make us better at conference in outdoor.”
“I’ve always thought of indoor as a launching pad into outdoor,” Moreno said. “You check out your surroundings and get an idea of things in outdoor and aim for a really stellar season in outdoor. It’s all about work ethnic and accountability, though.”
Knox’s outdoor track season will begin April 2 when they host the Knox Invite. The Midwest Conference Championships will take place on May 13 and 14 at Monmouth College.