Track and field is a big sport. Along with head coach Walt Drenth there are five other coaches that assist in each specific event. Before the meet this weekend, I talked with Ceith Creekmur the multi-events/vertical jumps coach and Randy Gillon the sprints and hurdles coach. I talked with each of them about how they are feeling about their athletes’ performance in the season so far and the Big Ten Indoor Championship which is two weeks away.
Multi-events/ Vertical jumps
With one school record broken and multiple personal records made, last weekend’s Meyo Invite in South Bend, Ind., was a big weekend for Creekmur’s group.
On the men’s side, freshman Tim Ehrhardt made a huge jump to a new personal record of 5.20m/17- ¾ ft. While this is impressive as a freshman, Creekmur says it is not a surprise.
“That’s a big PR coming out of high school,” Creekmur said. “But he’s the type of kid, with all the factors coming out of high school, it was coming sooner rather than later.”
Codi Mattix, who has been battling some injuries for the past year, was able to compete and Creekmur is expecting him to be ready to compete in two weeks at the Big Ten competition. Mattix is also a senior and provides valuable leadership to the team.
On the women’s side, Sarah Birkmeier broke a school record and grabbed her first win of the season with a jump of 4.06m/13-3¾.
“We had a really good practice last week, which was reflected in her weekend performance,” Creekmur said. “We had a great practice following that performances, so I think it gave her some confidence to go up and up. We want to keep the ball rolling.”
While Birkmeier was a standout, the other women performances should not be overlooked. Hannah Sailar and Kassie Powell both had a season PR’s of 3.85m/12-7 ½.
Creekmur feels that his group is in a good position for this point in the season. With track and field being split into two different seasons the athletes have to make sure not to peak too early into the indoor season for fear of being worn out for outdoor season. This means more training and less meets, and Creekmur feels practices have been going well for everyone.
“The last couple meets we’ve been taking some time off just to keep everything fresh and make sure everything is ironed out for Big Tens,” Creekmur said. “That was the first time we had backed off training a bit for that competition, just making sure the body feels good before competition, and I think the performances reflected that, and hopefully everything is uphill from here, especially from a reflection on the training.”
In the high jump, he said that Adeline Grier-Welch is making strides in her practices and in the past year has become a much better jumper.
“She’s had such a big spike in performances so for us our goal is to make that a bit more consistent,” Creekmur said.
For Kurt Schneider, last weekend was his first time competing in the heptathlon since 2012. With there being seven different events, it can be a lot to focus on. Creekmur believes that Schneider is physically prepared and just needs to sharpen some of his skills.
“This having been his first time doing [the heptathlon] since 2012. It’s just getting that [feeling] out of the way,” Creekmur said. “Now he kinda knows how it feels again. For him, it’s just getting in repetitions [during practice]…We know the body is ready to go, it’s just getting it all right on the day.”
Schneider will compete in the heptathlon again in two weeks at the Big Ten Championship.
For the men’s sprinting group, Gillon said that they are dealing with a youthful group.
“We don’t have the depth or the experience to have an impact to move forward. We are trying to get them to develop and compete at a high level. But their strengths are somewhere else.”
With that in mind, he is looking forward to the outdoor season where some of the athletes have better experience. Both Jacob McFadden and David Washington are skilled in the 400m hurdles and Gillon said they are doing better this year than last year.
With the women’s sprinting group there were a few personal records last weekend, but Gillon is looking for more in the way the athletes compete.
“We have a couple upperclassmen who have been a part of relay records, have rewritten record books and have qualified for nationals. They need to compete like that. Right now they are a little out of synch. So it’s a little challenging,” Gillon said.
Many of the women sprinters hold extremely competitive times that have allowed them to be ranked within the Big Ten and on a national level. TeJuanna Williams placed sixth in the 200-meter dash this past weekend with a time of 24.91. Williams has posted times in the past that could have placed her in the top three.
Jellisa Westney placed 14th in the 200-meter dash with a time of 25.15. Westney’s personal record is two seconds faster than the time she posted. As such an experienced athlete, it is clear she has the capability to be running much faster times.
It was a similar situation for many of the women and Gillon is trying to work with them and figure out where they need to make adjustments. He says in practice they are doing at or better than they were last year, but that is not being reflected in competition.
“Why is it that they aren’t able to see themselves as champions that they are? That’s the challenge we are trying to sort out. It’s something we’re working through and we have conversations about it on a regular basis and it is something we are trying to sort ourselves through.”
This weekend the group is looking to prepare themselves for the competition they will see at the Big Ten Indoor Championship in two weeks.
“We are looking compete and capture that mojo that we once had,” Gillon said.
Alexa McCarthy is the host of Last Leg for Impact Sports.
Photos: Alexa McCarthy/Impact Sports