Indoor Track and Field ended their season by hosting the Midwest Conference Championship this past weekend. Both the Men and Women’s teams came in 10th of 10 teams, but improvement is evident in their three new school records set during the Championship.
Despite a last-place finish for the two teams, improvement is undeniable as both teams finished with more points than the previous year, with the men jumping from eight to 30 total points and the women increasing from two to three total points.
This upward movement has been common within the Knox Athletic Department as new coaches like Head Track and Field Coach Randy Overby push their players to new limits.
“I definitely would not be where I am right now if he [Overby] wasn’t there to push all of us,” freshman sprinter Val Varanese said. “He expects a lot, he expects the best from everyone. It’s tough, but it’s worth it. He’s definitely turning this team around into a team that can compete, which is very exciting.”
Varanese was the only member of the women’s track team to earn points, receiving three for her sixth-place finish in the 60-meter dash while setting a Knox record with her time of 8.04.
The men were also highly successful in the 60-meter dash, with sophomore Shadrack Ofori-Boadi placing third and freshman Malik Hamilton placing eighth, earning a combined total of seven points.
Much like other Knox athletic teams, Track and Field is building using new recruits and talented underclassmen to increase success. This is evident when 24 of the Men’s 30 points were achieved by underclassmen. After a fallout during the outdoor season last spring, many upperclassmen left the team, leaving gaps for underclassmen to step into.
The men’s team has been able to rebound successfully, but the women appear to be slower on the uptake. This largely has to do with the lack of runners in total; Knox did not have competitors in events such as the triple jump, long jump, high jump, pole vault, distance medley and 60-meter hurdles, reducing the team’s overall chances of competing for points. A small roster size also makes events such as relays, which require four runners, more difficult to assemble.
“We definitely have a lack of runners,” Varanese said. “That’s especially difficult for the relays when we need four girls per relay, and obviously the same four girls can’t run every single relay.”
Overby does not appear to be overly concerned with points or rankings at this point in Track’s development, stressing more the importance of personal growth and breaking individual and school records, which each team can confidentially claim they have done.
The men’s distance medley team, comprised of junior Josh Tvrdy, junior Jeremy Rainey-Brown, freshman Zachary Barnes and senior Brian Cole, set a new school record with a time of 10:43.13, and the 4×200 meter relay team also set a new school record of 1:31.56 thanks to Hamilton, Ofori-Boadi, freshman Trezher Njoh Malafa and sophomore Donnye Sommerville. In addition to breaking school records, many runners topped their previous best times and placed within Knox’s top ten times for multiple events.
With Track and Field producing impressive times, Ofori-Boadi noted Overby’s post-championship praise.
“My expectations going into the Championship were that we were competitive and put our best foot forward,” Overby said in an email interview. “We were hosting the meet and needed to make sure we fully represented Knox College. My team not only met my expectations, but exceeded them as well. I am very proud of what they have accomplished thus far and am even more excited to see what they will accomplish going forward.”
Hoping to compete with conference powerhouses such as Monmouth and St. Norbert in the near future, one of the main goals for Knox now is recruiting, both on and off campus.
“I’m not sure how much Knox really recruits,” Ofori-Boadi said. “When you think about it, for the short sprints, most of us on the team, from the men’s side, are recruits from other sports.”
Ofori-Boadi was recruited from Men’s Soccer as a way to stay in shape during his off-season. He notes that other sports such as Football also add to the Men’s Track team.
The women’s team has had less success in recruiting from other Knox athletics teams than the men, but has had positive results in the past with Soccer and Basketball.
With little down time before their outdoor season begins, Track and Field hopes to build on their momentum from the indoor season. A few extra events, the steeplechase, 10K and two additional field options, have been added to the outdoor season, and both teams are claiming runners who specialize in each event, adding to the team’s potential in the spring season. With twice as many field events in the outdoor season, the men’s team hopes to recruit Football players who have proven successful in the past.
Having broken many records and proven themselves as a threat in conference competition, Knox Track and Field hopes to continue in the path of success looking forward to the outdoor season and even next year’s indoor season.
“I feel like the Track and Field program at Knox College is finally finding its footing,” Overby said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but I feel that we are better positioned going into my second outdoor season as coach, than we were when I started last year. I look forward to building an impactful, lasting and competitive team for Knox College.”