After long wait, track and field opens season with home win, while women’s tennis and golf keep on rolling

and | Staff Reporters

The Washington University track and field team had not competed in person in over a year before this weekend’s meet. But they made the best of it, winning the meet to get the season started after numerous pauses due to COVID-19 restrictions. Women’s tennis beat DePauw University for the second weekend in a row, moving to 3-1 on the year, and the golf team came fourth in a two-day competition.

Track and field wins by huge margins in opener, women ranked third in nation

In their first meet, both the men and womens’ track and field team claimed victory in their outdoor season opener. With only four teams competing, that left the pressure off of the athletes as they adjusted to the new COVID regulations and tested their fitness against teammates and other runners. Their performance ranked them high in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association national rating index, with the women ranked third and the men taking the 12th spot.   

The Bears had 24 victories in the competition, an impressive feat that included a sweep of the distance events. Both teams shut out the distance competition, not letting any of the other teams score in the 1500, 3000 and 10,000 meter races and claiming all 46 points. The final scores were 116 for both men and women, scoring 74 and 77 points over their competitors respectively against Webster University, Greenville University and Illinois College. 

Senior Joe Stover is a distance athlete who claimed victory in the 10k race as the only competitor.  It was his first time racing in over a year, and he ran a 46-second personal best to land on the University Athletic Association Athlete of the Week list. Stover’s performance is especially impressive given that it is still early in the season. “There’s not a bunch of people in the stands or other people to compete against,” he said. “So it was pretty low pressure, but obviously, I still have the drive to go out there and give it my all.”  

For the freshman track and field athletes, it was their first time putting on their green Washington University uniform. Collectively, the freshmen helped score over 30 points for the Bears, and the meet allowed them to put their training over the past year to use. “It’s always fun seeing these first meets how the sophmores have improved—and you don’t know how good the first-years are,” Stover said. 

[Our interview with a sophomore Bear about a year of COVID-restricted track and field]

Looking forward, the athletes are headed to another meet on Friday at North Central College in Naperville, Ill.  There, they will have slightly fewer competitors, with limitations on the number of athletes invited because of transportation limitations. They will also face stiff competition, including the University of Chicago and other schools with historically strong track programs. Stover knows that it will be another good opportunity to run fast times with more head-to-head competition with other teams. He himself is not traveling to Illinois—after running the second-fastest 10,000m time in the Division III, he is giving himself time to recover. 

Women’s tennis finds rhythm with sweep over DePauw

After a commanding 7-2 victory in their matchup against DePauw last weekend, the Wash. U. women’s tennis built off that momentum coming into Sunday’s rematch, and the team did not drop a set, beating the Tigers 9-0. The sweep brought the Bears to 3-1 on the season.

A sweep of doubles matches set the tone early, as captain senior Ally Persky and freshman Karen Gao won their match 8-4, while freshman Katherine Johnston and captain senior Laurel Wanger earned a decisive 8-1 victory over their Tigers opponents. Captain senior Emma Sass and junior Divya Sharma completed the sweep with an 8-4 win, marking the first time this season the Bears have won every doubles match. “If you can get off on the right foot like that,” Persky said Monday, “you can go into the singles already having a lot of confidence and momentum that can swing a couple courts your way from the jump.” 

That confidence showed up in a big way for the Bears, as they dominated all of their singles matches to seal the sweep. After last weekend’s home match against DePauw, Persky and Wanger both emphasized the intensity the team brought to their first away competition of the season. “Our main focus was to keep our energy up, so we were cheering a lot more and being a lot more supportive of our teammates,” Wanger said. “We just had to show them that we’re going to put up a good fight just as we did the weekend before.” 

Persky said the team played with lots of confidence. “Every time I looked up and down the court, everyone was hitting their shots really well and taking chances,” she said. “We were all really locked in.”

Sass said that getting back to a consistent schedule has been important in the team’s success. “It’s really raised the team morale,” she said, “and I think the team gets better when the matches are close together because we’re able to build directly off of the momentum and fix those mistakes moving forward.” 

The team as a unit seems to have locked in a winning groove; with the victory over the weekend, the Bears have now won three straight in head coach Paige Madara’s first season at the helm. “[Coach Madara] has been really resilient in leading us,” said Persky. “She’s been a really good fit so far for the team.” 

[Once a Bear, always a Bear: Our feature on Paige Madara’s return to Wash. U.]

Despite COVID protocols giving a new look to their season, Wanger said  “It’s starting to feel a little bit back to normal.” As the schedule evens out in the coming weeks, they look to keep the momentum going with a match at the University of Missouri-St. Louis next Tuesday.  

Golf places fourth amidst tough competition

The Washington University women’s golf team placed fourth in the WUSTL Spring Invitational, hosted at the Tapawingo National Golf Club. They hosted six other universities, including Bethel University, Illinois Wesleyan University, St. Catherine University, Carthage College, Millikin University, and the College of St. Scholastica. The Wash. U. athletes trailed 25 strokes behind the leading Bethel team, who won with 69 strokes over par.  

[‘Hey Champ’: How Caraline Oakley won her first collegiate tournament]

The Wash. U. team was led on the leaderboard by two freshmen, Caraline Oakley and Gwynnie Lee. Oakley finished in second place with an especially strong performance on day two, where she rose seven places from her first-day score. She finished with a 159 two-day total, hitting five birdies and fourteen pars. That performance earned her a spot on the UAA Athlete of the Week list for the second consecutive week after her win in her first collegiate tournament. Lee, in her first competition for the Bears, finished in 16th place with 24 strokes over par. She hit fourteen pars and two birdies during the tournament for a total of 168.  Also contributing to the team score were junior Rachel Rhee and sophomore Alena Lindh in the two places behind Lee.  Rhee shot a 171 total to finish 27 above par, while Lindh finished on 172 with 28 above par. Overall, it was a solid showing for the women, who will go into their next tournament at the Illinois College Classic in Jacksonville, Ill., with a fifth place Women’s Golf Coaches Association Poll ranking.  

Softball climbs back to just one game under .500

After a 4-1 loss to Webster University last Wednesday dropped the softball team to 4-6 on the season, the Bears bounced back with a victory over Greenville University this afternoon, 8-3. Junior pitcher Madison Denton had one of the best starts of her year, tossing a complete game and only allowing six hits, while freshman Ashley Kennedy hit her first two career home runs to power the Bears’ offense. Wash. U. is scheduled to take on Illinois Wesleyan University in a doubleheader Friday.

Some of the best StudLife sports opinion pieces from the pandemic era:

A love letter to my city’s spirit…creature: Why Gritty is so much more than a Cheeto-furred mascot

Skip free or die trying: My run-ins with the world of two-legged transportation

Why are the Detroit Pistons serving as this year’s NBA giant-killers?


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