The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Men’s indoor track and field clinch second-place finish

The men had several athletes take first place in individual events
Mitch Stegeman and Yakob Ekoue finish the indoor season as national champions. Photo used with permission from Keith Lucas.

Both the men’s and women’s track teams competed at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships, with the men taking second place, just behind UW-La Crosse. Two athletes on the men’s side also won individual championships.

The Blugolds traveled to Virginia Beach Sports Center to finish the indoor track and field season. On the men’s side, the team competed in the 60-meter dash, 800-meter run, 4×400-meter relay, high jump, pole vault, shot put, weight throw and the heptathlon. 

Mitch Stegeman earned a first-place finish in the heptathlon, scoring 5,434 points over the eight events encompassed in the event. Stegeman acknowledged the challenges of the championship, as well as the emotions that came with this win.

“I want to say how exciting and hard-fought the two-day competition was,” Stegeman said. “This was for sure the most competitive heptathlon I have ever been a part of.” 

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Stegeman competed in a field of 20 beside fellow Blugold Max Foland. The competition was composed of athletes from WIAC competitors UW-Oshkosh and UW-River Falls, other local competitors and athletes from both the East and West coasts. 

Stegeman, who said he had initial challenges on day one of the competition, did not lose confidence to finish strong during the second day. 

“I performed worse in every event besides the long jump where I jumped only one centimeter farther,” Stegeman said. “Even with a bad day one I still had some confidence for day two. I have always been more of a day two guy because I am a pretty good pole vaulter and 1K-runner.” 

Despite these setbacks and initial worries about performance, Stegeman won the pole vault with a height of 4.85 meters. He said that acting like every event was his last to place in overall helped him.

“Once I got into the competition, it was obvious that I was going to need a big vault to win,” Stegeman said. “Sure enough, I hit a mark that I hadn’t hit in two years and that was really what propelled me to the win.”

Yakob Ekoue also won an individual championship for shot put, as well as placing fifth overall in weight throws. The fourth-year threw his farthest shot on his sixth and last attempt of finals, finishing with an 18.70-meter throw.

Close behind Ekoue were teammates Adam Strouf in fourth place and Gage Stankiewicz in fifth. 

In the 800-meter run, third-year Sam Verkerke was the national runner-up. He ran a personal best time of 1:50.59, just three-thousandths of a second away from first place. 

On the women’s side in field events, second-year Kayla Behnke placed 12th overall in the shot put finals. Throwers Teagan Jones and Raina Stecher also competed in the weight throw. Ayden Fleeharty and Haley Blagdon represented the Blugolds in the pole vault. 

In running events, third-year Emilee Booker competed in the 60-meter hurdle dash and placed 17th overall.

Both teams will take time to regroup and recover before the start of the outdoor season, which will start on April 6 when the teams travel to UW-La Crosse for the Ashton May Invitational. 

Moris can be reached at [email protected].

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