Track & Field Season Preview: Distance
Jan. 11, 2012
MILWAUKEE - A successful cross country season and great training weather heading into indoor track and field has distance coach Mike Nelson looking forward to the promise of 2011-12.
“I am very excited about both the men’s and women’s teams and this winter break has gone surprisingly well with training,” Nelson said. “We have very few injuries and I think the fantasic weather has played a part in that. I can see a lot of top-10 performances on both sides and am hoping for some school records along the way. I think we are capable of scoring a great deal of points at the BIG EAST Championships.”
Despite the loss of an NCAA regional qualifier in Nick Szczech and McCahill Award-winner Brice Cleland, the men’s distance group returns a great deal of talent that should contend for points at the conference meets.
Back on the men’s side is two-time NCAA West Region participant Blake Johnson along with two-time CoSIDA Academic All-America Peter Bolgert, who ran the steeplechase at the NCAA preliminary round in 2010.
Johnson competed in the 10,000-meter run at last year’s regional, along with Szczech, and improved upon his seed with a 31st-place finish in 30:054.28. He also finished 29th in the steeplechase at the West Region in 2010 after entering as the No. 48 seed.
“We are going to have Blake primarily concentrate on the indoor 3k and the 5k this year as opposed to the relays,” Nelson said. “I feel like the 5k and 10k might be his best events and his best chance of helping the team would be by scoring in those.”
Bolgert redshirted the outdoor campaign in 2011, leaving him with both seasons of eligibility this year as he shoots for the Marquette record in the steeplechase and as part of the men’s distance medley relay. Bolgert currently sits sixth all-time at MU in the outdoor 1,500 and second in the steeplechase.
“Peter will primarily focus on the relays during the indoor season, specifically the DMR and 4x800 at the conference meet. One of his goals this year is to lead off that 1,200 and hopefully set a school record in that DMR. We tried to go after the record last year and just missed by about three seconds,” Nelson said.
Another men’s student-athlete shooting for a school record is Jack Hackett in the indoor mile where he ranks third in program history with a time of 4:07.38. Hackett recorded that time last year at Notre Dame’s Alex Wilson Invitational on March 5 and will have another couple shots this year at Notre Dame, potentially even in the prestigious Meyo Mile.
“Jack Hackett will be shooting for the school record in the mile and is very capable of getting that mark,” Nelson explained. “With his tremendous improvements during cross country I think his training has gone well and he is poised to have a very good season.”
Hackett’s former high school teammate Evan Ross completed the first cross country season at MU and will look to display the tools that made him the Wisconsin state champion in the 1,600-meter run and 3,200-meter relay during his time at Port Washington High School.
“Out of all these guys, Evan was the fastest in high school on the track and I can definitely see him doing some great things for us. I would love to see Peter lead off the DMR, giving it to a strong 400-leg, then Evan in that 800 before he hands it off to one of those guys in the mile.”
Along with Hackett and Ross, Patrick Maag and Spencer Agnew have the potental of posting times below the 4:10-threshold in the mile. Both had solid sophomore seasons in 2011 and could anchor the distance medley relay in the mile and run a solid 3k as well.
Fellow juniors Connor Callahan and Jack Senefeld will help in the longer distances with Callahan running anything from the mile to the 10k while Senefeld could range from the 1,000 all the way up to the 10k. Nelson plans on taking a wait-and-see approach to see how both are progressing by the conference meets before he decides in which events they will compete.
Men's Squad List
While there is a great deal of youth on the women’s side, the prospect of continued improvement is one that has Nelson excited.
“I can see some huge improvements over what they did last year so it is going to be fun to see them dropping time and getting better. We are going to attack the top-10 lists this year. One of my goals is to put as many of these names on those top-10 lists as possible,” Nelson said.
Olivia Johnson in particular should be ready to go after a bout with mononucleosis forced her to miss both the indoor and outdoor seasons last year.
“Olivia got mono around Thanksgiving last year and it had a drastic effect on her through the summer months. She had some ups and downs throughout the fall because she was trying to play catch up and her training was inconsistent.
“What has happened recently over the last month is things have leveled off for her. Her best week of training in the past year was this last week, and our goal is for her to have her best season ever and get back to regionals.”
Johnson sits on MU’s top-10 lists in four different individual events, ranking the highest (No. 4) in the outdoor 1,500-meter run in which she competed at the 2010 West Preliminary Rounds. She placed 32nd in that meet and notched her personal best of 4:28.01 in her preliminary heat at the 2010 BIG EAST Outdoor Championships.
Sophomore Sarah Ball is coming off a spectacular freshman campaign, setting Marquette freshman records in the indoor 600- and 1,000-meter runs while providing great 800- and 1,200-relay legs.
“Sarah Ball’s cross country season was a lot better than it was last year,” Nelson said. “She has trained well and she is very focused. I think you will see her way up on the top-10 list in the 800 and the 1,000 this year. Her goal is to break the school records in both those events and she may not do it this year, but she will get close.”
Senior Courtney Kelly has shown constant improvement throughout her career and will help the Golden Eagles in the indoor mile and the steeplechase during the outdoor season. She moved into the No. 6 position all-time at MU with an 11th-place finish at last year’s BIG EAST Outdoor Championships with a time of 10:53.46. She will look to improve upon that mark and get below the 5-minute barrier in the mile.
Redshirt senior Alyssa Stevens will join Kelly in the steeplechase and her background as a hurdler should serve her well in that event. Stevens competed with the cross country team in the fall after spending the first four years of her career with the sprints group.
Freshmen Elisia Meyle and Kenzie Vicker had phenomenal cross country seasons for first-year runners and are both expected to contribute on the track. Meyle will contribute in the longer events, perhaps threatening the MU freshman mark in the 10k, while Vicker will run the 1,000 through the 3k.
Women's Squad List