With roughly 20 teams scheduled to participate at Mount Union’s Jim Wuske Invitational on Feb. 6, the invitational was anticipated to be a grueling and highly competitive meet for the men and women’s track teams.
“Saturday’s invitational had a lot of really great competition, although it was a little disappointing that about half the teams didn’t show up,” said Lauren Butler, ’12. With the onslaught of snow across the region, only 10 teams were able to travel to the meet.
Despite the decreased amount of competition, the Gators performed with a heightened intensity, creating many season-best times.
“A coach once told me that you must be consistent before you improve,” said Tony Dipre, ’10. “I feel like personally and team–wise we did a nice job of maintaining that principal.”
Last week, the Gators traveled to Denison for the NCAC Relays. Both the men and the women finished in the bottom half of the team rankings.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Head Coach Bill Ross. “The conference and national championships are the only times when the [team] score matters. Each meet is like a personal time trial. You go to test yourself.”
And that’s just what they did on Saturday at the Mount Union Invitational.
In the men’s mile, Dipre led the Gators to cross the finish line first. He was followed in a battle for third place by teammates Mike Vlah, ’13, Ryan Hanson, ’10, and Ben Eyer, ’10, who all had personal best race times and finished third, fourth and fifth respectively.
“It was probably the most exciting race of the day,” Ross said.
Zac Ross, ’11, was victorious in the 3,000–meter run while Ryan Sullivan, ’11, Pat McLaughlin, ’12, and Jake Zimmerman, ’10, crossed the line for third, fourth and seventh respectively. Ross, Sullivan and McLaughlin qualified for the NCAC Championships with their times.
For the women’s team, Butler led the field with her victory in the shot put, for which she earned the honor the NCAC Women’s Field Athlete of the Week.
“In the last few meets my best event has been shot put,” Butler said. “However, I will be competing in the weight throw this weekend in Boston at the Boston Valentine’s Invitational, which I am extremely excited about.”
On the track, Mia Symoniak, ’10, placed first in the 3,000–meter run while teammate Kelly Gallagher, ’13, came in sixth.
Katie Stancik, ’11, crossed the finish line first in the 5,000-meter run with Emily Dunn, ’13, following for second place.
“The highlight [of the meet] was the fact that everyone made improvements,” Ross said. “It was the best meet of the season so far. We feel encouraged because training is going well.”
“I think this past weekend was another step in the right direction to where we want to be come conferences at the beginning of March,” Dipre said.
The next step for the Gators is this weekend’s Valentine’s Day Invitational at Boston University where they will compete against many teams from NCAA Divisions I, II and III. Last year Dipre, along with the men’s distance medley relay team, qualified for Nationals at this annual invitational.
“We are hoping to replicate those efforts this weekend,” Dipre said.
With the presence of Division I competition, the stakes of this meet will be higher than ever.