For its third meet of the season, Bradley’s track team was in Terre Haute, Indiana on Feb.13 for the Indiana State Invitational and the results did not disappoint. The Braves won five events among other personal highlights during the weekend.
The women’s team was all over the scoreboards with standout performances during multiple events. Freshman Wilma Nielsen continued to impress, as she won the mile with one of the best performances in school history.
She completed the mile in 4 minutes, 49.19 seconds, 18 seconds quicker than her runner-up. This was the second-best time in school history, and the fastest since 2011 when Mark Goldkamp set the school record.
Bradley runners were on each step of the podium, with junior Emma Ehrhardt and redshirt junior Aisling Joyce posting times of 5:07.61 and 5:11.07 to complete the sweep.
On the men’s side, the long-distance runners showcased their dominance once again. Braves runners occupied the first four and six of the top seven spots in the 3,000-meter run. Junior Matt Aho led the pack with a PR time of 8:31.84.
“Team-wise, this was exactly what we wanted, it has been the mantra all year, ‘the strength of our pack,’” Aho said. “I was also happy to get a PR, [my] first one since freshman year; to see these personal steps was a welcoming sight as well.”
Juniors Evan Mitchell and Alec Danner completed the red and white podium with times of 8:32.52 and 8:33.26. Senior Michael Hahndorf, sophomore Drew Wenger and freshman Billy Hauenstein finished fourth, sixth and seventh, respectively.
The Braves swept the 800 with redshirt freshman Tiana LoStracco clocking at 2:14.00 for the women and Aidan Donohue clocking at 1:55.86 for the men. LoStracco was followed by freshman Reina McMillan at fourth with 23:23.13 on the women’s side. On the men’s side, freshman Mason Jones (1:59.21) and redshirt sophomore Alex Klinkner (2:00.50) were third and fourth.
Ashley Maguire led the Braves in the 3,000-meter run with a third-place finish and a time of 9:54.25. She was followed by two redshirt freshmen in Sophia McDonnell and Lily Strauss at fourth and sixth with times of 10:00.55 and 10:11.17.
More freshmen invited themselves to the party, with Kyra Koontz setting top-10 marks in school history in two separate events. She finished second in the long jump, setting a distance of 5.31 meters, the fifth-best in school history, and 9.40 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles, the seventh-best by a Brave.
“There really is not anything that did not go well, which is awesome when you have this many people,” head coach Darren Gauson said.
In these choice times, Bradley runners have been combining their indoor track season with their cross-country season. The MVC will have its indoor championship from Feb. 26 to Feb. 28. Distance runners will then have a quick turnaround before competing in the cross-country championship on March 3.
Gauson admitted that this has changed some of the practice routines with the fusion of track and cross-country workouts for the team.
“It is kind of a weird season this year with indoors going right into cross-country, but we are looking great,” Gauson said. “I think one of our huge advantages is that we have a pretty big roster.”
Although it has been different from what happens in a regular season, Aho said that his personal training routine has not changed drastically. He said long-distance training revolves around strength, regardless of the sport.
Due to the unusual circumstances, Aho said it has taken some mental preparation to be ready to switch gears quickly.
“It’s mentally wrapping our mind around [the fact that] we have indoor on Saturday and cross on Wednesday,” Aho said. “I kind of follow the sport and [it’s] quite a unique situation for the Valley to have two conference meets in one week, but I feel very fortunate that the Valley was able to get all our meets in.”
The Braves have one more indoor meet – this morning at Eastern Illinois – before the conference championship next weekend. Gauson said only two runners will be in Charleston while the rest prepare for championship week.
Although their indoor season is important, Gauson and Aho admitted the primary goal for the team is to win a sixth straight conference championship. They will have the chance to accomplish the record feat in Evansville, Indiana at the Angel Mounds Cross Country Course on March 3.