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Bradley track and field strides towards success

Jack Crull competes at the Raleigh Relays, Photo Courtesy of Bradley Athletics.

To say Bradley track and field had a successful weekend would be an understatement, taking home top honors in six events at the Billiken Invitational in St. Louis.

Both Bradley teams were all over the scorecards, which made head coach Andrew Carlson ecstatic.

“It’s fantastic when it lines up that people are running at their best and they’re also winning,” Carlson said. “This meet not only displayed great progress by our runners, but that we have a competitive edge that’s going to serve us well late in the season.” 

Senior Kyra Koontz had the most impressive time of the meet, crossing the finish line in 14.83 in the women’s 100-meter hurdle. This set the school record and won her the race.

“I was injured last year, so I didn’t hurdle, so coming back into it with a new coach, I learned different exercises such as three-step drills and one-step drills that really helped me come back strong from my injury,” Koontz said. “I would say the most effective drill is the one-step hurdle drills because it really helps me focus on leading into the hurdle without having too much momentum.” 

“Hurdle starts before the race also help as it puts me in the right mentality of how it’s supposed to feel to go over the hurdle,” Koontz added.

Several other Braves achieved record times, as freshman Parker Nold improved on his 5000m time with a 14:43:17 and sophomore Hope Rajlich ran faster than she ever has in the 400m, finishing with a 1:00.85. Sophomore Kaitlyn Sheppard won the women’s 1500m and achieved a personal best of 4:28.96. 

The Braves dominated the 800m race, with first-place finishes from both the men’s and women’s teams. Junior Abigail Hancock clocked in at 2:12:81 to win her heat, and senior Jack Crull won the men’s 800m with an impressive time of 1:50.93. Crull’s mentality remained consistent even when he lost ground.

“Honestly, don’t panic no matter the position you’re in,” Crull said. “Try to relax as much as possible. Sometimes I think, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re going so fast right now, maybe I should slow down so I don’t get tired with 300 or 200 meters left.’”

“Overall, the most important part for me is just to stay relaxed throughout the whole race and focus on maintaining good form,” Crull added. 

Like Nold, freshman Oliver Burns attained a personal best in the 5000m with a 14:39.87, placing first in the event. 

Lastly, Bradley’s men’s 4×400 relay continued the team’s success with a 3:21.00 time that netted them first place. This relay consisted of senior Will Smith, freshman Jaxson Copelin and sophomores Brock Rice and Ivan Wescott.

With another successful weekend in the books, Koontz and Carlson appreciate what the team has been able to accomplish this season.

“It’s really nice. The track program has always been a smaller program, so no one really sees the things that we do,” Koontz said. “People are actually starting to notice and understand what we do here. Friends will see me and ask if I’m going to break a record this weekend or if I’m gonna win my meet. It’s just gratifying for people to recognize who we are and that our sport is here.” 

“We talk a lot about our like top-10 lists and setting goals in a way that puts ourselves into positions to write our names into history at Bradley University,” Carlson said. “Oftentimes during a meet, fans just look for the placing of runners. We like keeping very close track of where that athlete’s time puts them in Bradley history rather than if they just won or lost.” 

The Braves are back in action this weekend. The team will split up, as some compete in the Bryan Clay Invitational in California while others travel to Champaign for the Gary Wienke Invitational.

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