The past few weeks have yielded a remarkable amount of record-breaking track and field performances and impressive finishers for the Knox Prairie Fire men’s and women’s teams alike. At the Midwest Conference Championships hosted by Ripon College on Feb. 23, Knox broke three school records in the men’s and women’s 4×200 meter relay, as well as the men’s 60 meter dash.
In the wake of their third place finish at Ripon, junior Malik Hamilton, freshman Raph Adeyemi, freshman Hunter Lee and senior Donnye Sommerville set a new record for Knox men’s 4×200 meter relay, finishing with a time of 1:31.28 seconds.
Hamilton also broke the men’s 60 meter dash record for Knox that same day, finishing first in the event and fourth in the 200 meter dash. He also broke the Knox 4×400 meter relay record alongside Lee, Sommerville and freshman Arthur Santoro the previous Saturday at Wartburg College. After his performance, Hamilton said that the Ripon meet was a gratifying experience.
“[The 60 meter dash], it’s a big accomplishment because it’s what I’ve been working towards,” Hamilton remarks. “For the other relays, [the broken record] is partly on me, but it’s on [my teammates] too. It’s nice having records up. But placing top three in conference [for the 60 meter dash] is better.”
In this event, Hamilton has broken the school record three times at Knox, shaving .01 seconds off of each run, starting at 7.03 seconds and finishing at 7.01 at the conference meet.
“I’m going to try and break [the record] again,” Hamilton says. “My goal for all three [events] is to break them all again.”
On Feb. 22, Hamilton earned Midwest Conference Track Performer of the Week.
The women’s 4×200 meter relay team also broke a previous Knox record at conference, finishing in sixth place overall at 1:49.36 seconds. The 4×400 meter relay team consisted of junior Valarie Varanese, sophomore Michaela Kowalewski, and freshmen Karah Polk and Rebekah Alexandre.
Alexandre, who broke Knox’s 200 meter dash record at Monmouth College two weeks prior with a time of 26.8 seconds, placed fifth in the 200 and 400 meter dashes at the conference meet at Ripon in addition to helping break the 4×200 meter relay record with Varanese, Kowalewski and Polk.
“This was my first year doing indoor track because I’m from Miami, [where] we only have outdoor,” she said. “It was different for me [to do indoor track] . . . It was extremely hard for me, because usually I do the 200 [meter] and the 400 [meter]. And the 200 on the indoor track is the whole [track], so it was kind of weird for me.”
Standard-sized running tracks are 400 meters around, as opposed to the track inside Knox’s T. Fleming Field House, which is 200 meters around.
Alexandre elaborated on her background, explaining how track and field was not an activity she initially wanted to do.
“Originally, my mom told me I had to do a sport. And I didn’t know what sport I was going to do . . . and then it got to the end of the year, and track was the only sport left, so I did it . . . I was in sixth grade.”
Alexandre set her 200 meter dash personal best in her senior year of high school back in Miami with a time of 25.84 seconds, so she will likely break her Knox record of 26.8 seconds in the future. She says she’s looking forward to outdoor season, which reminds her more of her track experience at Florida.
“Outdoor season is my favorite season,” she explains. “We start practicing outside . . . And then we have [the spring conference meet]. I’m planning on going and doing well.”
Varanese, one of Alexandre’s teammates in the 4×200 meter relay, shares in the glory of the broken record. “We broke seven records this year [in total], men’s and women’s . . . It’s super exciting.”
Varanese says that training for these kinds of feats is difficult, but worth it in the end when it comes to breaking records. “[It is] lots of work,” she said. “We have practice pretty much twice a day every day of the week. We have lifting in the morning and then running in the afternoon.”
Another runner from out of state, Varanese says that while she comes from a warmer climate, she also prefers outdoor track at Knox to indoor. “I like outdoor in Arizona so much better than here, because it’s freezing outside here, but I like [Trevor Field] better [than T. Fleming].”
Like Hamilton and Alexandre, Varanese’s goals for the spring season’s conference championships are to beat her previous records. “[My goal is to] keep breaking more records, maybe place . . . second or first in the 100 [meter dash] for conference.
On March 24, the Knox men’s and women’s track and field teams will begin their outdoor season by traveling to Augustana College in the hopes of continuing to break records like these and many more to come.