Track opens outdoor season

The track and field team made a fast start to the spring season last Saturday at the Bill Cornell Spring Classic in Carbondale where seven Braves earned personal bests in the first outdoor meet of the season.

The men were led by senior Michael Ward as he won the 1,500m race with a time of 3:47.86. After redshirting the indoor season this winter, Ward started the outdoor season by defending his title from last year at the same event.

Ward will look to continue his momentum from his hot start in the 1,500m into the 5,000m run, where he will compete for most of the season..

“We are hoping he can run one the quickest times in the country over that distance,” head coach Darren Gauson said. “This is what we’ve really been aiming for since cross country finished.”

Senior Patrick Campbell placed fourth with a time of 3:53.50. Freshman Jake Hoffert closely followed Campbell in his outdoor debut with a time of 3:55.18.

“Jake is an exceptional freshman,” Gauson said. “He will run well this coming weekend.”

On the women’s side, redshirt freshman Gabby Juarez led the team in the 1,500m with a time of 4:38.96. Junior Hannah Witczak trailed Juarez with a time of 4:40.57 while senior Rachel Sudbury placed third in the 800m run at 2:14.96.

“Those three are looking really good right now,” Gauson said. “They all have an excellent chance of contributing on a high level for us.”

Freshman Kristin Oakley placed second in the 3,000m steeplechase with a time of 11:13.63. Oakley had never raced in the steeplechase before Saturday.

“She will definitely run it in the conference meet in May,” Gauson said. “It was an excellent opener for her.”

Gauson said he was happy with the team’s performance in the outdoor opener but saw room for improvement.

“We should be a little bit sharper this coming weekend in California and Eastern [Illinois],” Gauson said.

The Braves take to the track again this weekend in three different meets. Gauson will split the team, which means some runners will travel to California to participate in Stanford Invitational or San Francisco State Distance Carnival, while others will participate in the EIU Big Blue Classic in Charleston.