Indoor track and field teams open the season on a high note

Matthew Friedman | Contributing Reporter

The official NCAA season does not begin until next semester, but the Washington University Indoor Track and Field team is already turning heads. The team had a successful showing at Saturday’s Titan First Chance meet in Bloomington, Ill., heading into winter break on a high note.

Event organizers did not calculate team scores on Saturday, but the Bears did rack up four first place finishes and a number of personal records. Senior Heidi Nassos and sophomore Julia Dannenbaum took first and second place, respectively, in the pole vault, while sophomore Eka Jose won the triple jump. The Red and Green’s success extended to the track events as well. Sophomores Sophie Grigaux and John Harry Wagner swept the 600-meter run, while senior Jay Pittman came in second place in the 60-meter hurdles.

The results impressed head coach Jeff Stiles, led the women’s cross country team to their first national championship since 2011 last month. “If you look at the performances within the context of last year’s nationals—Heidi Nassos, Eka Jose, Jay Pittman—those are all performances that should go to nationals and contend,” said Stiles.

Stiles also pointed out that there were also great performances aside from athletes who won their events. Six women jumped over 35 feet in the triple jump, success that will make it difficult to choose three athletes to compete at the University Athletic Association and national tournaments in the spring, Stiles said. The men’s 4×400 meter relay team ran an astounding 3:23.62, which was good enough for a second place finish overall and particularly impressive, given that the team did not include senior Jason Singer or sophomore Andrew Whitaker, who ran the event for the men at nationals last spring and will compete later this season.

The Bears face a challenge in the upcoming winter break. They do not have organized practices for five weeks and will not have another meet until Jan. 11.

“The reality is that when we start back in January we’ll probably be not as far up as we are now,” Stiles said. Since students are in the midst of finals season, there is the need for them to prioritize academics over athletics, Stiles said, which is important but prevents them from devoting more time to practice. Stiles also said that since the University does not have its own indoor track, winter weather could prove problematic for the Bears even upon their return in January.

“What we are going to have to work on is getting back to where we are now,” said Stiles.

After the cross country team’s successes in November—in addition to the women’s national championship, both teams won UAA division titles—sights are now set on winning each of the UAA division titles this year, Stiles said. He said the Bears have come close to this feat in the past, winning five of the six titles in the same season, but that no school has ever won all six. This could be the year. As Stiles said, “We just need to keep getting better every day and in every event, in regards to who you are as an athlete.”