Track and Field
Track and field looks to hit marks for postseason at Ole Miss
Nate Moller | Friday, April 9, 2021
Track and field will be back in action this weekend with a group of athletes heading down to the Joe Walker Invitation at the University of Mississippi.
The outdoor track season started off well for the Irish a couple of weeks ago with their first outdoor meet at North Carolina State University. At that meet, the distance squads competed well, with senior Yared Nuguse running a 13:40.62 in the 5000 meters, which was the best in the nation at the time.
Another highlight from North Carolina State was graduate student Katie Wasserman, who transferred from Columbia University. Wasserman ran a 15:33.35 in the 5000 meter race, which is still the best time in the nation.
Head coach Matt Sparks discussed Wasserman’s training over the last several months.
“It was her first ever completed 5K,” Sparks said. “She was a miler at Columbia, and we spent the last six months building her up towards more of a 5K runner, and it looks like it’s paid off.”
Another highlight from the distance runners in that meet was freshman Olivia Markezich, who ran a 9:58.18 in the 3000 meter steeplechase in her outdoor track debut. That mark is currently the third best time in the nation.
Sparks explained how the meet this weekend, along with the other meets this season, will serve as preparation for bigger meets down the road.
“For the entire team, the regular season is a build up towards the conference and regional meets,” Sparks said. “We’re trying to hit qualifiers to get to that first round of the NCAA Championship, which is the regional championship. When those kids hit those marks, we kind of tuck them away and focus on the postseason.”
While some athletes who already have a top mark will not be competing in the near future, athletes on the bubble of making a certain mark will compete on a much more regular basis.
“Olivia Markezich won’t race for another couple of weeks,” Sparks said. “Yared won’t race for another month, as he probably preps for the 1500. Other events that maybe are still on the bubble for regional marks are still competing pretty regularly.”
Sparks explained the group that will be traveling to Ole Miss this weekend.
“This week, we will take about 30 athletes with us to Ole Miss with a lot of throwers and distance runners,” he said.
Sparks also mentioned that the female heptathlon will be fun to watch this weekend.
“The other unique thing that will go on at Ole Miss is the female heptathlon,” Sparks said. “[Freshman] Jadin O’Brien, who was fourth at the indoor championships, will not compete, as she still has some aches and pains from the indoor season. Our heptathletes will be competing, and they only compete in that event once or twice prior to the championship season. So it will be the debut for [freshmen] Alaina Brady and Madison Schmidt in the heptathlon. We are really excited to see what they can do in their [outdoor heptathlon] debut.”
Although O’Brien will not be competing this weekend, Sparks is looking forward to seeing her in the outdoor season after a very successful indoor season.
“She’s kind of a jack of all trades,” he said. “She’s pretty good at all of [the events]. She ran 2:12 in the 800. She’s one of our top long jumpers, one of our top 800 meter runners, and she’s honestly one of our best shot putters, which is what allows her to be the top freshmen in the country in that event.”
The throwing squad is always strong for the Irish, and this year will be no different. Adding a group of graduate students in the outdoor season will help the Irish as well. Because the pandemic cancelled the outdoor track season last spring, there are lots of athletes that have extra eligibility.
“We had a lot of success in the throws indoors with [senior] Rachel Tanczos as runner-up, and obviously she’s throwing outdoors for us,” Sparks said. “But then what makes the outdoor season a little more unique for our throws group is our graduate kids that are competing.”
Sparks explained that this season will be tough for the throwers because there was no outdoor season last year.
“The first couple of weeks we are kind of getting the rust off after two years of not doing outdoor track and field events,” Sparks said. “Now they’re getting back to their specialties. They’re just getting their outdoor track events back and figuring things out over the next month.”
The meet will start on Friday, April 9 and conclude on Saturday, April 10.