Track & field has early eye for future

In another typical weekend performance, the Bradley track teams yet again set more personal and school records.

Sophomore Michael Ward broke his own school record in the 5,000-meter, while senior Chase Coffey and sophomore Haran Dunderdale set personal records (PR) in the 5,000-meter and the steeplechase, respectively, at the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, California.

And that was only the men’s team.

Senior Rachel Sudbury clocked a PR in the 1,500-meter, senior Sarah McMahon had the top 5,000-meter time for a Brave woman runner this season and senior Caitlin Busch set a new PR in the 10,000-meter at Stanford as well.

Even though last weekend’s set of meets was the second weekend of the outdoor track season, head coach Darren Gauson is already looking toward the future.

“We’re that emerging program that won last year,” Gauson said of the cross country conference titles in November. “We won two championships in the fall and now rank nationally on the track.”

While the Braves aren’t winning invitationals, the pedigree that comes from setting multiple PRs has implications for future races.

“We must be running at 90, 95 percent of PRs,” Gauson said. “Indoors was great and outdoor we started where we finished off … I think the max Bradley has had in the first round [of the NCAA races] was five, and we’re already pretty much at four.”

With NCAA West preliminary races at the end of the season, Gauson is hoping to accomplish one thing Bradley has never done before, which is to send more than five runners to the NCAA preliminary races.

With four qualifying runners already, Gauson said the team has a real chance to not only pass up the record of five, but to smash it completely.

“Our goal is eight, so we’re halfway there,” Gauson said. “We’ve got a few just on the fringes.”

One of those runners on the fringes is Sudbury, who’s PR of 4:26.50 is only a few seconds away from being a NCAA qualifier.

“What stood out to me the most [at Stanford] was the progress we made this year,” Sudbury said. “I personally had a big race, as well, with a significant PR.”

Gauson also mentioned that after the season ends entirely, he has to replace a senior class that make up most of the NCAA qualifiers.

“We want to make sure the next time we have a big senior group, when they leave we’re stacked through junior, sophomore, freshman year,” Gauson said. “We’re not going to have a big fall off.”

The team has a chance to establish themselves early next season, as Gauson said the team has received commitments from top runners in Indiana, Texas and even Canada. He also said establishing a talented class, like this year’s senior class, has to be tempered with good recruiting in order to carry over success from year to year.

Sudbury, a redshirt junior, will be coming back to Bradley next year with one year of eligibility remaining. As one of the top returning runners, Sudbury said she’s ready for the chance to carry over the standards from this season’s graduating class to the incoming runners.

“To be able to meet the new Braves, it’s super exciting to be able to work with them,” Sudbury said. “[I can] pass down what being a Brave and wearing the shield means to me on to them and holding the standard of what we built.”

The Braves continue toward the NCAA West preliminaries next weekend at the Gibson Invitational in Terre Haute, Indiana.