Marquette Track & Field Season Preview: Distance
Jan. 11, 2011
The Marquette distance group is the most experienced on the track and field roster as it returns most of its top runners from 2010, including four athletes who competed in the West Preliminary Round of the 2010 NCAA Championships.
Gone is Jayne Grebinski, a constant scorer for the Golden Eagles during her four years at MU, but seniors Peter Bolgert, Nick Szczech and Olivia Johnson, along with junior Blake Johnson give MU a great chance at continued success in the middle and longer distances.
With most of the distance runners competing during the fall in cross country, a little time off was needed to recuperate after logging a lot of mileage.
"Ever since the regional cross country meet, the athletes who had a full season took some time off and had some down time from running," assistant track and field and head cross country coach Mike Nelson said. "As far as running, we're keeping things low key and trying to build our mileage and intensity about ten percent each week."
Men's Middle and Long Distance
The men's distance group is the deepest on the roster as MU returns three 2010 regional participants, including CoSIDA Second Team Academic All-American Peter Bolgert.
Bolgert moved up to second in school history with his time of 8:54.76 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the BIG EAST Outdoor Championships on May 1. Bolgert's time earned him a spot in the West Preliminary Round of the 2010 NCAA Championship with the 19th seeded time in the region.
Also a standout in the classroom, Bolgert was honored by ESPN The Magazine and the Collegiate Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) for posting a unblemished 4.0 grade point average through his first five semesters at Marquette.
"The BIG EAST is so middle distance oriented that guys like Peter and Blake fit in well," Nelson said. "They can help in both cross country and in track in a lot of events. I think there's a huge correlation between cross country and track especially for a guy like Peter. His PR last year in cross country was 25:55 and this year was 25:13. Every single race he PR-ed over his PR from last year, so obviously that shows he's gotten way better from a fitness stand point. That's only going to help his mile and his steeplechase. As athletes make those improvements in cross country, you see some solid improvements on the track too."
Junior Blake Johnson joined Bolgert in the steeplechase after running his two fastest times in the final events of the 2010 season. Johnson placed 10th at the BIG EAST Championships before recording a personal-best time of 9:05.30 at the Dr. Keeler Invitational on May 14.
As someone who can help the Golden Eagles in various events, Johnson figures to play a very prominent role once again when the BIG EAST Championships roll around.
"Blake is a utility guy, he can do anything," Nelson said. "We're trying to find a specialty for him, but even outdoors we're talking about him doing the 10,000 meters along with the steeplechase. Indoors he is going to concentrate on the 4x800-meter relay all the way up to the 5k.
"What we've talked about him doing this year is potentially anchoring the DMR (mile leg) and then coming back the next day and running the 3k at the conference meet. Another thing I talked to him about is being a school record holder in the DMR and being ranked as high as we can be in the mile, the 3k and the 5k. In outdoors, from the 1,500 to the 10k, Blake Johnson is a name that is near or at the top in every single event. He's poised to do that this year based on the improvements he made in cross country."
In addition to the steeplechase, Johnson climbed up the record books to place seventh at MU in the mile with a time of 4:09.47 and was one of seven MU runners to post a BIG EAST qualifying time during the indoor season.
Junior Jack Hackett posted the top time in the mile (4:08.97) in 2010, placing him fifth in school history, and finished 10th at the BIG EAST indoor meet. Hackett will reshirt the outdoor season but should approach the school record in the mile during his career at MU.
"Jack Hackett will concentrate on the mile, 3,000 and maybe the DMR during the indoor season. It's fun talking to him because we're starting to talk about some elite performances," Nelson said.
Hackett's former high school teammate, Evan Ross, will also look to make strides in the middle distances after a couple of injury-plagued seasons in cross country. Ross was a state champion in the 1,600 and 4x800-meter relay as a prep runner at Port Washington High School and if healthy could be another MU runner to run a sub-4:10 mile.
"One guy I'm looking forward to watching is Evan Ross," Nelson said. "He's a guy that we haven't seen too much of yet. He had a pretty good indoor track season last year, but his outdoor season was cut short due to an injury. He's back now, running good workouts and it'll be exciting to see what he can do on the track for us because he really has some talent."
Sophomore Patrick Maag also performed well during his first season at MU and could also be a factor in the middle distances.
Senior Nick Szczech was the third regional participant for the MU men in 2010, competing in the 5,000-meter run. Szczech notched the third fastest time in school history in the event (14:13.35) at the Mt. SAC Relays on April 16 and placed 39th at the West Preliminary Round. The Cudahy, Wis., native along with fellow senior Brice Cleland and redshirt freshman Jack Senefeld figure to be the primary runners in the longer distances in 2011.
Cleland will once again serve as a team captain in his fifth year with the program, while Senefeld is expected to post impressive numbers after a breakout cross country campaign.
"As athletes make those improvements in cross country, you see some solid improvements on the track too," Nelson said. "You go to a conference meet and you might run three races. If your aerobic base is not as good, you can usually run one race really well, but you come back the next day and you're shot. The faster you can run the 8K or the 10K in cross country, the faster you can run the 3K, and the mile on the track."
Women's Middle and Long Distance
Senior Olivia Johnson returns as the most experienced runner for the Marquette women with an appearance in the 1,500-meter run at the 2010 West Preliminary Round of the NCAA Championships under her belt.
The Millford, Iowa-native was the Golden Eagles top runner during the cross country season and ranks among the top-10 athletes in school history in the indoor 800-meter run, indoor mile and the outdoor 1,500.
"Olivia has really become more dynamic in all the events that she can tackle," Nelson said. "I think she can be our best 800-meter runner and I have thought about putting her in a 10k because I think she would do pretty well. I want to give her a shot to break the school record in the 5K because that could end up being her best event. She is just a good runner."
The senior has fought through a bout with mononucleosis following the cross country season and may end up taking a redshirt while she fully recovers from the illness.
Shouldering the load for the MU women with Johnson potentially redshirting is fellow senior Kristin Pelzel, who has fought through a variety of injuries herself during her time at Marquette.
"Kristin is really motivated because she had somewhat of a disappointing cross country season and she really wants to go out on top by running some great times," Nelson said. "She'll probably do a lot with the relays and she's really excited about that, which makes it exciting to see how she develops."
Pelzel ranks sixth (10:59.69) in MU history in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and will help fill the void in that event due to the graduation of Grebinski. Grebinski was the school record holder in the 5,000 and was one of the BIG EAST's top steeplechase runners in 2009 and 2010.
Returning alongside Pelzel are juniors Courtney Kelly and Kate Horan, both of whom also rank in MU's top 10 in the steeplechase. Kelly and Horan each compete in events ranging from the 1,500-5,000 meters and with continued development could crack the school's top-10 lists in any of those events.
"Kate will run a pretty solid steeplechase and one of her big goals is to be under 11 minutes in that event and under 5 minutes in the indoor mile. I think Kate is poised to have a big season. Courtney Kelly will run the mile specifically indoors and she can qualify for the conference meet. She is poised to have a good track season as she is more track and middle distance oriented," Nelson said.
Junior Carly Condon has also impressed Nelson with her work in the offseason and may be someone to keep an eye on during the season.
"Someone that could make some surprising contributions is Carly Condon in the middle distances," Nelson said. "She is really going to knock down her PRs significantly and do a nice job."
Of the newcomers, Nelson believes freshman Sarah Ball can have the most immediate impact on the track.
"I think Sarah could be a significant contributor for us in the relays, especially the 4x800 and the distance medley relay. I think she can run pretty well in the 500 meters, the 800, and the 1,000. She didn't have the cross country season she wanted to have, but I think she's really on the right track now."
"Anna Weber is longer-distance oriented and had a great fall of training, ran a half marathon and is poised to set some personal bests. I look forward to a really good 10k out of her during the outdoor season."
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