5,000 meters, school record highlight track weekend
A first-through-ninth sweep in the men’s 5,000 meters led the Washington University track-and-field teams to a strong showing at the Fighting Scot Invitational in Monmouth, Ill.
Two weeks prior to the University Athletic Association competition on Feb. 23, the Bears put together a strong performance Saturday. The women’s team won three events and finished second in six more while the men’s side recorded seven top-three finishes.
“Today was a step in the right direction. There were a lot of season bests and personal bests,” junior Anna Etherington said. “That said, we still have a lot of work to do before conference, and it will be exciting to see what we can accomplish.”
Only one word describes what the men accomplished in the 5,000 meters: domination.
“Today was a great example of how well our team runs together,” junior Kevin Sparks said. “We’ve been targeting this meet to run the 5K, so everyone was looking forward to coming out and getting in a really good effort.”
Sparks led the way for a unit head coach Jeff Stiles called “deep and solid” with a time of 14:46.52, junior Michael Ellenberger finished second in 15:07.54 and senior David Hamm took third in 15:11.83. Sophomore Sam Lazechko took ninth place by 0.57 seconds over 10th-place Chris Behling of Carroll University in 16:27.22 to complete the sweep.
Etherington and sophomore Claire Simons took the top two spots in the women’s pole vault. Etherington cleared an indoor school record 3.87 meters, and Simons tied her career-best by clearing 3.52 meters.
“I think we’re just really focusing on practices and making each one count, so today was just about trying to put things together,” Etherington said. “Monmouth is a great track, and the atmosphere is fun to compete in, so that helped today.”
Not to be outdone, sophomore pole vaulters Troy Makous and Nick Alaniva on the men’s team took second and fourth place, respectively.
“Coach [Lane] Lohr, our pole vault coach, is arguably the best collegiate coach [in the country], so he simply has them doing great stuff heading into UAAs,” Stiles said.
Freshman Emily Warner, whom Stiles called “a delight, a total team player and a fierce competitor,” continued to shine in the 800 meters as she lowered her own freshman record with a time of 2:15.94. Warner took the lead immediately and never ceded it, winning the event by 3.16 seconds.
The final event win for the Bears came in the 4×400 relay, in which the Wash. U. women took the top two places. The team of senior Anne Diaz-Arrastia, junior Nkele Davis, junior Alison Cesarz and Warner took first by 2.98 seconds over their teammates. Freshmen Jasmine Berger, Lane Porter and Bri Tiffany and junior Jasmine Williams claimed second place by 0.23 seconds over Truman State University’s ‘A’ team.
Sophomore Lucy Cheadle traveled separately to Fayetteville, Ark., to run the 5,000 at the University of Arkansas Tyson Invitational. The idea was to use the opportunity to record a strong time on a fast track against some good competition, and she ran a personal-best 17:16.06 to finish in second place. Her mark is the seventh-best in NCAA Division III this season and third-best in school history and topped Division I competition from schools including Mississippi State University and Kansas University.
Cheadle insisted that she could do better.
“Overall, the race didn’t go quite how I had hoped,” Cheadle said. “I ran a good first 3K but didn’t feel that great, and then with 600 meters to go, I felt really fatigued and tightened up, so I slowed down a lot at the end. I know I have the potential to run much faster than I did, but my body just wasn’t quite there to finish it out this time.”
The Red and Green will travel to Jacksonville, Ill., for the Illinois College Alumni Classic on Feb. 15. Stiles indicated that the team will use the weeks leading up to UAAs, held in Cleveland, to tune up and relax.
“Everything has been going in the right direction so far this season, with UAAs being the culmination. We have two more weeks to sharpen up before Cleveland,” Sparks said. “There’s always more we can do to better prepare ourselves, especially in terms of each person perfecting their routine before competition. But it ultimately comes down to trusting your coaches, teammates and the work you’ve put in.
“If each person does that, we have no regrets.”