Over the weekend, Knox track and field teams competed in the Midwest Conference Championships for the indoor portion of the season. The Prairie Fire have three athletes who have qualified for nationals — freshmen Austin Rauch, Derrick Jackson and Takira Koonce — which takes place in Boston.
Rauch, a high jumper, is having a record-breaking season for the Prairie Fire. Rauch broke the high jump record at Knox. It was a long held record set in 1979 by Larry Ide, a record of 6’8”. Rauch thrives on competition, and it motivates him. He uses the heights that his competitors clear as goals that he wants to beat.
“I like pressure. I like the competition. I jump worse when everyone else is gone,” Rauch said.
Preparing for a competition is about getting himself ready mentally as well as physically.
“I have to calm myself down because you get a little jittery when they call your name to jump,” said Rauch. Rauch takes some deep breaths and then jumps. For Rauch, it’s about not getting too riled up, but for Jackson, it’s about going over techniques.
“Mentally, I just go through technique things and watch my favorite track runner, Christian Coleman,” Jackson said.
Derrick Jackson started off the Midwest Conference Championship strong by running a school record 6.98 in the 60-meter dash on the first day of the two-day event. The second day he missed out on third place by just .008 seconds. Jackson accomplished these feats while running on an injured hamstring that he’s been battling all season.
“I’ve been battling that since day one, and I’ve had surgery on it twice, on the first day for preliminaries it went well, but the second day it got the best of me, but it happens,” said Jackson. As a dual-sport athlete, playing football as well, the transition from football shape to track shape is a very tricky transition.
Jackson is unsure if he’ll run at Nationals because of the hamstring injury, but if he does, he intends to show up and show out.
“I want to make nationals all my four years, and just break records every year,” Jackson said.
Jackson and Rauch aren’t the only record breakers on the Track and Field roster. Koonce reset her school record in the women’s 200m with her performance this weekend. Freshman Charles Broomfield came to Knox after he left Colorado as the division 5A Discus State Leader. Broomfield finished seventh in the men’s weight throwing portion of the championship and fourth in shot put. Broomfield also loves the excitement that comes with competing.
“You take everything more seriously, everything is sharper, and everything is more controlled,” Broomfield said.
The energy for Broomfield is crucial because it allows his body to relax and let the muscle memory take over.
The track and field team has proved the indoor season to be extremely successful for them as a program. Often, you hear the athletes on the team say, “it’s a building year.” However, the team has prepared well for nationals and their outdoor season and can now look ahead to full immersion after the spring break.