The UW-Eau Claire men’s and women’s track and field teams opened their 2014 outdoor season this past weekend at the Ashton May Invitational at UW-La Crosse.
It was both of the teams’ first action since the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, and both teams picked up right where they left off.
The women’s team scored 103 points, finishing third while La Crosse won the event with 329. The Blugolds notched two first place finishes and also had five other top-three finishes.
One of Eau Claire’s first-place finishes came from sophomore Kara Metzger as she tied for the top spot in the pole vault with a height of 3.20 meters. Metzger said it was good to compete outdoors because she was able to experience competing out in the elements rather than practicing indoors like the team has all year.
“It’s really nice for pole vault because we had the wind at our back,” Metzger said. “So we got to feel what it was like to run a little bit faster and it made it easier to get over the bars.”
Metzger said the wind helped her focus less on her speed and more on the top end of her form, which allowed her to clear the heights.
Also taking home a first-place finish was Eau Claire’s 4×400-meter relay team of sophomores Taylor Wirth, Jessie Reineck, junior Calla Karl and senior Kelsey Weigel. They won with a time of 4:04.27.
Wirth, who ran the final leg of the race, said she thought it was good to start the outdoor season with a win. When Wirth received the baton, her teammates had gained a lead and she said although she had no one to run with it was important that she finished strong.
“The biggest thing is just getting out as hard as you can and maintaining through the straightaway,” Wirth said. “Then you just hold on until the end.”
The transition from the indoor season to the outdoor season has been going well, Wirth said. This past week, the team was able to have its first full week of outdoor practices. She said the indoor season tends to be a lot harder because the corners are much tighter and it is harder on the athletes’ bodies.
“It was nice to be able to go outside to go out and run times we wanted to run,” Wirth said.
The men finished second at La Crosse with 159 points and five event victories.
The men’s 4×400-meter relay team of junior Thurgood Dennis, freshmen Alexander Vandermause, Connor Drexler and Jimmy Paske won the event with a time of 3:19.36. Eau Claire also had a second team in the event, and it finished in third.
Drexler said in an outdoor setting, races are a lot wider and there is more space for people to relax in between events compared to everyone being cramped inside a field house. For this meet, the 4×400-meter relay teams were scrambled, which means sprinters were running with unfamiliar teammates.
“We were hoping to be a little more competitive with the two relays we had in it, but it was still a fun race,” Drexler said.
Dennis won the 400-meter dash with a time of 48.54 seconds and Eau Claire brought home the other top four finishes in the event.
Junior Cory White won the 200-meter dash with a time of 22.02 seconds, and senior Tony Floyd won the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 15.06 seconds. Junior Roger Steen won the shot put with a distance of 16.77 meters.
Both teams are preparing this week for their meet on Saturday at the UW-Platteville Invitational. Drexler said during this part of their season workouts tend to be tough and then their coaches will taper down the intensity as they get closer to the meet.
“We are just looking to be competitive with the other relays this week, and individually I want to have a good split,” Drexler said.