Men’s track finds success with distance relay

Marking the team’s last indoor competition before nationals and the beginning of its outdoor season, the UW-Eau Claire men’s track and field team competed this weekend in the WIAC Indoor Championships in Oshkosh.

Eau Claire got off to a slow start Friday, managing eight points to place the team in seventh out of the eight teams. In the second and final day of competition Saturday, the Blugolds moved their way up a spot to finish in a two-way tie with UW-Stout for sixth place with 26 points.

UW-Oshkosh paced the pack on the opening day Friday, racking up 55 points. This was good enough to hold off last year’s WIAC champion, UW-La Crosse, by 22 points.

The Blugolds earned six of their eight points from the distance relay team comprised of juniors Matt Goetz and Ben Schmiege, and freshmen Jordan Klein and Zach Severson. The four finished third with a time of 10:04.76.

The time was good enough to garner an NCAA provisional, which likely will give the group a spot at nationals.

Eau Claire’s distance relay team went up against some strong competition as Oshkosh’s relay team set a new WIAC Indoor record, breaking the tape at 10:02.12.

“Coming into the meet we knew that three of the four distance relay teams in the conference were capable of making it to nationals,” Klein said. “So racing at nationals will be nothing new; it’s just us racing against our conference.”

The Blugolds final two points of Friday’s competition came from sophomore John Schuna, who placed seventh in the shot put with a toss of 15.08 meters.

La Crosse took home the conference crown this season, totaling 189 points to better Oshkosh who tallied 168 points. La Crosse has dominated the 35-year history of the WIAC Indoor Track and Field Championships, winning the title 28 of 35 times.

For some Blugolds, the meet was about accomplishing personal goals and improving on times.

“We didn’t have a big team for this competition,” Goetz said. “This was more about qualifying events for the national meet.”

The final scores for the rest of the WIAC teams came with UW-Stevens Point grabbing third place with 127 points, UW-Platteville in fourth with 85 points, UW-Whitewater in fifth with 58, and UW-River Falls placing eighth with 21.

Eau Claire received its highest finish Saturday by senior Kurt Heilman who cleared 6.5 feet in the high jump. The mark was good enough for a third-place tie with three other jumpers.

Saturday’s distance events proved to be Eau Claire’s strong points. Severson grabbed six points for the Blugolds as he took home a fifth-place finish in the 1,500-meter run.

Severson’s time of 3:58.8 was followed closely by teammate junior Jeff Burkart who landed in the seventh spot, crossing the finish line at 4:00.49.

Eau Claire picked up another five points with its 1,600-meter relay team, who clocked in at 3:25.75.

Senior James Larson and Goetz raced in the 3,000-meter run with Larson finishing eighth at 8:41.85. Goetz couldn’t quite match the time and ended with a time of 8:42.14 and a ninth-place finish.

“Larson came out of a slower heat, but it’s really good that we had someone score some points in that race,” Goetz said.

The distance relay team is almost assured a bid to compete in the NCAA nationals being held Friday and Saturday at Green Castle, Ind.

The team then will take a couple of weeks off before the Blugolds open their first meet of the outdoor season. That meet will be April 5 at the St. Thomas Invite in St. Paul, Minn.

The team should be much stronger in the outdoor season, Anderson said, because it will be adding some strong runners to its roster.