Men's Track & Field BIG EAST Outdoor Preview
May 12, 2016
2016 BIG EAST Conference Outdoor Championships
Like the women's side, the men have enjoyed tremendous progress over the past couple of seasons, closing the gap between them and two-time defending champion Villanova since the new BIG EAST was formed. In 2015, the Golden Eagle men recorded matching runner-up finishes at the indoor and outdoor league championships, while repeating that result at the indoor championships earlier this year after coming just 13 points short.
The meet, which will span Friday-Saturday, May 13-14, will be aired live on the BIG EAST Digital Network with John Fanta and Cayleigh Griffin on the call. Broadcasts will begin 15 minutes prior to the start of running events on each day, scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Central time on Friday and 11:45 a.m. CT on Saturday.
The men's team is built a lot like the women's side with throws and jumps supplying an abundance of scoring opportunities, while the other groups will be relied upon to step up in order to improve the team's chances for an overall championship.
"If we can snag a few points out of the distance and mid-distance events, that will definitely help," head coach Bert Rogers said. "We're going to score a ton in the throws and a ton in the jumps and multi's. We need to get it done across the board if we want to win."
The collection of sprinters that Rogers has acquired over the last year is young and very talented.
"This is definitely the deepest sprints group we've probably had," Rogers said. "Brandon Bell has really had a nice year and put together a nice, consistent season and he's fired up for BIG EAST. Connor Boos, Karl Tatum and Jay Whalen have run really well, set records in the 4x200 relay at Drake and 4x100 at the Wisconsin Twilight, and they're just freshmen."
That freshmen group could be the missing ingredient in capturing the program's first-ever outdoor title. Boos, Bell and Tatum all rank in the top-five in the BIG EAST this season in the 100-meter dash, while Bell, Boos and Joshua Word are featured among the top-eight in the 200-meter dash.
"Across the board, we have a solid opportunity to score in every event," assistant coach Mike Nelson said. "We're looking strong and good in practice. If you look at the performance list, folks might not see us scoring in many events. Though, we have some guys that are projected to score in the steeplechase like Kevin Ryan and William Hennessy, who were sixth and seventh last year.
"Really simple goal is to score more than we scored last year," Nelson added. "We didn't score in the 1,500 or 10k, so if our group can do their job and pick up some points, from a team perspective, we're looking pretty good."
Ryan Shields, who will look to improve on his top-10 finish in the 1,500 from a year ago, will be joined by Aric Miller, Brad Eagan and Henry Mierzwa in the event. Meanwhile, John Klaiber will look to score in his first-ever 10,000-meter run at the BIG EAST Championship.
"When it's a big stage like this, I think everyone raises their level of motivation and expectation, which does lead to faster times," Nelson said. "We're going to have to adapt to the race, survive and advance."
The throws group continues its tradition of success under assistant coach Mike Koenning even after the departures of long-time staples William Koeck and Brett Hardin. Though they are young, they are eager to compete and score.
"Propelling the team to their first conference title is their focus," Koenning said. "We might be able to score more than we have in the past even though we have young throwers because I think we have more quality throwers."
Koenning stressed the fact that it's a different guy leading each event with junior veteran Joel McBride in the hammer, sophomore Maxwell Bullard in the shot put and freshman Terrance Howard in the discus.
Of course there's junior John Krzyszkowski, who will be vying to once again break his own school record, is seeking his third straight BIG EAST championship in the event.
"The rest of the cast will contribute a lot as well," Koenning said. "But it's pretty exciting. None of them graduate and, across the board, it's probably our deepest group yet."
"We have a number of athletes that could potentially be BIG EAST champions," assistant coach Rick Bellford said of his jumps unit.
In the pole vault, Marquette placed three in the top-four at last year's championship and is poised to do so once again with the services of Joel Swanberg, Vinny Martello and William Ford. All have enjoyed much success along the way, including Ford, who recently broke the Marquette record just a couple weeks ago.
Dwayne Dash Jr. is eager to improve on his top-five finishes in the both the long and triple jumps from a season ago.
"(He) is one of the guys we're looking to have a huge meet," Bellford said. "We feel like he's coming on strong and ready to hit big marks."
"Wally (Ellenson) in the high jump has had a couple really solid weeks of practice," Bellford said. "I feel like he's ready to get back in the 2.20s. Had a lot of pop lately and if he keeps going the way he has, he's very close to hitting one of those big jumps again."
Ellenson, who has earned All-American status in each of his first three season's in the high jump, is gunning for his second straight BIG EAST outdoor title on the way to contending for his first individual national title.
"We're feeling good and definitely peaking at the right time," assistant coach Rick Bellford said. "We've been putting up some big marks the last few weeks. We're excited and looking forward to having a good meet."
The gap is as small as it's ever been for a Golden Eagle program that has made steady improvements in recent years and now finds themselves ready to contend for a BIG EAST outdoor title for the first time.
Marquette's BIG EAST Outdoor Finishes
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