Track teams battle at elite WIAC meet
Throughout her career, senior Julia Baranek said the women’s outdoor track and field team always went to the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship shooting for a title.
However, after being unranked since April 18, Baranek said the team had to adjust their goals heading into the meet last weekend at UW-Whitewater.
This year, she said the goal was instead to compile 150 team points at the meet. Not because the team didn’t have talent, but because the WIAC currently boasts four nationally-ranked teams and is the highest-rated conference in the country.
“Whether that got us first place, second place, third place, whatever,” Baranek said. “That was more of the goal.”
Ultimately, the team wasn’t able to reach that goal and finished with 129.5 points, but they were able to bypass one of the ranked teams and earned a third place finish at the meet.
No. 5 UW-La Crosse took the team title with 185 points, while No. 2 UW-Oshkosh came in second with 176. Eau Claire’s performance also moved the team back into the rankings and they now No. 8 in the country.
The Blugolds were helped by 11 top three finishes at the meet, including a conference title from Baranek in the triple jump.
Her 12.07-meter jump not only earned her first place at the meet, but also broke the previous school record of 11.84 meters that was set in 2005.
Baranek said she had her eyes on the record since the start of her collegiate career and that it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I knew since I was a freshman that I wanted to eventually jump 12 meters,” she said. “It feels good that all of my hard work paid off at a meet that was pretty important.”
Three individuals took second place for the Blugolds at the meet. Senior Brittany Frederick was the lone field competitor who did with her 45.71-meter discuss throw. Also earning runner-up status were junior Steph Sjostrom in the 1,500-meters and senior Kacey Rindy in the 10,000 meters.
Up next for the team are last chance meets the next two weekends for competitors who have not yet qualified for nationals. After that, those runners who did qualify will move on to the NCAA Championships starting, which start May 24 in Claremont, Calif.
The UW-Eau Claire men’s outdoor track and field team earned a fourth place finish with 112 points at the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship last weekend.
It was the team’s best result at the meet in 20 years. The last time they surpassed that mark was in 1992, when they took second.
Senior Thomas Breitbach said it really just seemed like another steady day for the Blugolds, who came in ranked No. 6 nationally.
“It wasn’t a lights out day overall, but it’s the best outdoor conference meet we’ve had for quite some time,” Breitbach said. “It was a good day, but nothing that was earth shattering.”
No. 2 UW-La Crosse took first at the meet for the 22nd consecutive year with 163 points. No. 3 UW-Oshkosh was a close second with 160 points, while No. 7 UW-Stout came in third with 135.
Sprinter Thurgood Dennis continued his decorated freshman campaign with his performance at the meet. Dennis already earned All-American honors during the indoor season along with conference titles in the 60-meter and 200-meter dash.
Last weekend he solidified himself as the best sprinter in the conference with two more titles, this time in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Dennis’ time of 21.26 seconds in the 200-meter also broke the old school record of 21.4 that was set in 1991.
Breitbach said even though Dennis is just a freshman, the Blugolds seem to really rally around his performances.
“He just electrifies the team; he’s fun to watch,” Breitbach said. “Knowing you’ve got somebody like that on your team really get’s you excited to go out and compete.”
Earning the next best individual performance for Eau Claire was Breitbach, who took second place in the 5,000-meters with a time of 14:35.79.
Also earning second at the meet were senior Tony Sigrist in the hammer throw and sophomore Jacob Dennis-Oehling in the 400-meters.
Up next for the Blugolds are last chance meets the next two weekends where athletes who have not yet qualified for nationals will get a final opportunity.
After earning a runner-up finish at nationals during the indoor season, the Blugolds have high aspirations again when the meet starts May 24 in Claremont, Calif., Breitbach said.
“We really think if we peak like we did during the indoor season for the national meet, we can contend pretty successfully for a national title.”