This season, the Prairie Fire track and field teams have shown massive improvement from previous seasons. They have broken records not only personally, but for the college as a whole. They are one meet in to their outdoor season as of late March, when their outdoor seaosn officially begun, due to cancellations.
On March 31, the Fire competed at Lindenwood University. The men and women did well, with several top-five finishes, one being freshman Arthur Santoro, who placed fifth in the men’s 800m run with a time of 1:58.16. Santoro has been a big performer for the Fire, assisting the men’s 4×400 relay team to break their Knox record in the indoor season. The relay team – consisting of freshman Hunter Lee, senior Donnye Sommerville, junior Malik Hamilton and Santoro – placed fourth with a time of 3:25.99 during indoor season in a meet against Wartburg College. They broke the record they had already previously set and proved their importance to the track and field team.
“It’s been awesome to break these records, especially being a freshman. [My relay team is] really hoping to get the school record in the outdoor 4×4. We’re also hoping to get to nationals, it’ll be tough but we’ll work towards it,” Santoro said.
Santoro has been running for five years now and believes the season is looking really good for his entire team.
Sophomore Diego Morones agrees with Santoro, speaking to the track team’s improvements as well.
“Right now, we’re looking really good as a team. This weekend is looking good, our relay team is looking sharp, we just gotta work on handoffs but other than that we’re looking pretty good and ready to get into the outdoor season,” Morones said.
As for junior Taliah Ellis, coming out of basketball season and straight into outdoor track hasn’t proven to be a problem for her.
“I know the team has been working hard and since I wasn’t there indoors, I’ve noticed they’ve been putting in a lot of work indoors and done a lot of great things. What we’ve been trying to do is just build off of what we had going indoors and taking that to outdoors. We had a meet two weeks ago and we went there and got some stuff done,” Ellis said.
Freshman Rebekah Alexandre has broken five school records this season alone for sprinting. Her best performances are the 200m dash, with her best time being 26.80 seconds.
Similarly, freshman Karah Polk has broken almost every record for her hurdling performance this year and shows up as eight out of 10 records for hurdles up on the college’s leader board, her best being 9.39 seconds for the 60m hurdles when the Fire competed at Monmouth.
Alexandre and Polk have both proven to be valuable to their relay teams as well. Their 4×200 relay team, consisting of Polk, Alexandre, sophomore Michaela Kowalewski and junior Val Varanese broke the school record with a time of 1:49.36 at the Midwest Conference Championship meet hosted at Ripon this past winter.
Kowalewski spoke for the women sprinters and said she’s excited for the meets to come with the way the team has been performing.
“Coming out of the indoor season, I think we showed a lot of what we had; especially on the men’s side, we moved up in the conference and did really well. On the women’s side we’re still working on some things but we’re really coming into our own. It’s really exciting,” Kowalewski said.
Kowalewski also enjoys the camaraderie of the team and explains that having such a young team has proven to be a benefit. She attributes this to more rigorous training and their coaches’ attitude towards practice.
“We’ve had a lot of freshmen come in and I think we’re a really young team. I think it’s been interesting because we’ve had sophomores step up as well and now juniors are leading really well and the few seniors contribute a lot. Having a young team that’s up and coming is really exciting,” Kowalewski said.
The weather has proven to be difficult for the outdoor sports for the first few weeks of the term, but the track team is working through it and still making sure to stay positive.
“It’s just the nature of the sport, you gotta deal with anything nature throws at you,” Santoro said. “I think we’ve adjusted really well, people aren’t complaining and are excited about getting out there to run and morale is still up, so that’s important.”
Kowalewski spoke more about the track team having difficulty finding space to run since the fieldhouse is normally crowded with baseball and softball players.
“It’s definitely hard, especially in terms of finding practice space, but we gotta bear with it and get out there even if its snowing. Hopefully our meets don’t get canceled, that’s the main thing. We’re still putting in the same intensity and working hard,” Kowalewski said.
Ellis believes it’s difficult because the sprinters can get injured a lot easier outdoors if their bodies aren’t properly warm but still thinks it’s something that the team can work through. As a thrower, Ellis says it doesn’t really bother her to get out and throw in the cold but she worries about her fellow teammates that do distance and sprints.
Despite the weather, Kowalewski is excited about the upcoming meet and thinks the teams will compete well.
“We look really good. It’s hard to know because we haven’t had meets to really showcase what we can do but this upcoming meet at Benedictine I think will be really good to showcase that,” Kowalewski said. “We got a lot of good competition and a lot of strength on the men’s and women’s teams.”
The track and field teams are proving to be very competitive this year and the competition will get interesting as they enter their outdoor season. The Fire will compete again this coming weekend, April 13-14, at Benedictine University.