Teams expected to finish strong at WIAC meet

John Koenig

The UW-Eau Claire women’s and men’s outdoor track and field teams will round out their long seasons with the WIAC Conference Championship in Oshkosh this weekend.

Women’s track and field
The Eau Claire women’s track and field team is looking to take down national and conference powerhouses UW-La Crosse and UW-Oshkosh in the tournament, senior Erin Kokta said.

“We should finish in the top three overall for the meet, but beating Oshkosh or La Crosse would be really awesome,” she said.
Returning 2005 outdoor and 2006 indoor pole vault national champion junior Stephanie Barnes will give the Blugolds a big point boost, Kokta said.

Kokta, who competes in the long, triple and high jumps, as well as the 400-meter relay and 100- meter dash, is hoping to place in the top five for each event.

“I want to increase my provisional times and jumps,” she said.

Senior Brooke Schmidt and junior Paula Crossfield are ranked in the top five nationally in throws, Kokta said, and will contribute a lot of points for the team.

“I think all around we don’t have a spot that is a glaring weakness,” she said. “We have someone that can score in every event and that’s pretty exciting.”

Kokta said since the beginning of the outdoor season, many people have shown strong performances and beat their personal bests in the process.

“Everyone just needs to do what they can and we’ll be fine,” she said. “We have good rankings and should have a lot of good showings over the course of
the championship.”

Men’s track and field
Blugold men’s coach Chip Schneider said the team has been hovering around sixth place in the conference for the last few years.

“We’re predicted to finish sixth, which is where we finished last year,” he said. “However, if we could pull off a fifth place finish I would be very happy.”

To accomplish that, Schneider said the team needs to repeat the good performance it saw at the Drake Relays last weekend.

The team is pointing in the right direction, he said, but it needs to be ready for some tough competition.

Among the athletes Schneider expects to do well, junior Al Oleson’s provisional national qualifying distance in the hammer throw should place at the top of the meet.

Junior Nick Aliota has a busy weekend running hurdles, two relays and the 200-meter dash, but he’s succeeded with all of them, Schneider said. Sophomore Drew Bingner improved in the javelin throw from last year and is ranked at the top of the conference.

“In practice I’ve really been focusing on speed to cut my times down,” Aliota said. “This is my third conference meet where I’ve been in four events and my goal is to place in the top eight in all
of them.”

Schneider also said the 2400-meter relay team will score some points for the Blugolds.

Overall, the outdoor track season started really well for Eau Claire, but lately the team has been hitting a low slump, but Schneider said that is to be expected.

“The season is very long and 35 of our guys going to conference are underclassmen,” he said. “In my first year as head coach, we had 38 guys total on the team. We’ve made great strides and will have a bright future ahead.”

Throughout the season, Aliota said, a lot of guys have stepped up and done well. The team should score more points than indoor and hopefully place higher, he said.

However, Schneider said the team needs to be consistent this weekend to pull away with a
strong placement.

“During the year, we would have one guy with a great performance one meet and another with a bad day at that meet,” he said. “Everyone had their moments this season, but now we need these moments to be on the same days.”