For a track and field athlete, nothing can compare to the conference championships. Everything in the season leads up to a two-day meet that is full of nerves, pressure, long bus rides, hotel rooms, adventures with your teammates and, of course, the actual competition. This past weekend, my teammates and I made the long trip down to Monmouth, Ill. for this year’s indoor track and field conference championships.
The competition kicked off Friday, Feb. 22, with the sprint medley relay and the 5,000-meter run. In the sprint medley relay, the team of sophomore Nora Robinson, junior Mikaela Hintz, sophomore Emily Hoeft and freshman Claire Schrier took sixth. Then, Lawrence turned in some strong performances in both the women’s and the men’s 5000-meter run. I finished seventh while my fellow senior Josh Janusiak won the event for the third year in a row. Lawrence closed out Friday’s competition with an eighth-place finish for the men’s 4-by-200-meter relay team of freshmen Sheldon Garmon, Cameron Wicks and Julian Garcia, as well as sophomore Ethan Simmons.
Things really got rolling for the Vikings on Saturday. The day kicked off with some strong performances in the field events as freshman Kealey Cate was seventh in the pole vault and senior Tobin Carlson was eighth in the weight throw, throwing 13.30 meters.
Then it was time for the distance medley relay. This event is one of my personal favorites to watch because it features four distinct legs with four vastly different speeds. The race is a total of 4000-meters broken into a 1200-meter leg, a 400-meter leg, an 800-meter leg and a 1600-meter leg. Lawrence also had put together some strong teams that were looking to get onto the podium in the event. The women were up first. After getting in a good position and maintaining it throughout the middle legs, freshman Leah Hawksford took the baton. With 400 meters to go she made her move and sealed a third-place finish and All-Conference honors for the team of junior Christina Sedall, sophomore Alyssa Kuss, freshman Natalie LaMonto and Hawksford. The men’s race was just as exciting as the women’s. During the 400-meter leg, a Grinnell runner fell right in front of Simmons, forcing him to leap over the other runner to finish his part of the race and hand off the baton. Lawrence’s team was anchored by sophomore Cullen Allard. He took over in good position, but not in the top three. However, Allard was decisive and quickly put the Vikings into the mix for All-Conference honors. Then, just like Hawksford, Allard made his move and led Lawrence’s team of himself, Janusiak, Simmons and freshman Billy Daniels to a third-place finish.
“My favorite part of Conference was definitely the Distance Medley Relay (DMR),” said Janusiak. “I usually don’t do relays, so it was an awesome reminder of how inspiring it can be to run for a relay team instead of just as an individual. The DMR is cool because it spans the whole range of sprints to distance. It was also really exciting that both the women’s and the men’s teams got All-Conference honors!”
Lawrence continued to feed off this energy and excitement for the rest of the meet. In the 3000-meter run, sophomore Alex Chand took fourth on the women’s side. On the men’s side, Janusiak competed in his second event of the day and third of the competition and took home third for his third All-Conference honor of the meet. Then, in the final event of the competition, the women’s 4-by-400-meter relay team of Hoeft, Kuss, LaMonto and Hintz finished seventh.
Overall, Janusiak said, “I think the meet went really well. The second day was so full of positive energy and everyone was really supportive of each other, and I think that’s what led to all of the outstanding performances on day two. I think our whole team had a lot of fun and we bonded a lot.” Beyond the runners who placed well, personal and season bests were present up and down the Lawrence roster. Personally, there is nothing better than the atmosphere of conference. Everyone is so excited to compete, and your teammates are out there supporting you every step of the way. Nothing beats the feeling of working hard all season through winter weather to finally break through and meet your goals at conference. I know I personally will savor the feeling and the memories of my 5000-meter run for years to come.
Yet this meet does not mark the end of the track season. It simply means it is time to shift our focus to the outdoor season. While a fair amount of the events remain the same, the outdoor season features some new things like the 10,000-meter run, the steeplechase, the javelin, the hammer and the dreaded 400-meter hurdles. “I am so excited to race the 10K in Outdoor Track and to watch my teammates run it. That’s my favorite distance in college,” said Janusiak.