Track sprints into 2018 season

Alyssa Johnson lands in the long jump.

Alyssa Johnson lands in the long jump.

Bradley Piros, Courier Staff

MACOMB Ill. – The Western Illinois University track and field teams are looking forward to having an even more successful season than last year. With the help of incoming freshman and returning seniors, these teams have the experience and the younger talent to achieve great things, but first, let’s take a look back at what they did last season.

The last time out for both teams was the Summit League Finals back in May. The teams didn’t place well but head coach Mike Stevenson was optimistic.

“I was really pleased with our team’s performance today. We couldn’t have asked for a whole lot better, especially from our seniors. The seniors were great and set a high bar for the rest of the team to look up to in the future,” Stevenson said. “As for the team scoring, we accomplished our goals and are enthusiastic about the future. It will be hard to replace this senior class, but we will work hard with the underclassmen develop them and hope they can live up to their own expectations.” The men placed fifth out of six teams and the women finished fourth out of eight.”

Looking back at that meet, it was the seniors who were really getting stuff done. Seniors Alyssa Johnson, Jaclyn Finney, Kaliyah Cobb and Sierra Woods recorded a new PR in the 4 x 400 with a time of 3:51.45. With that entire 4 x 400 team graduating, everyone is eager to see who steps up for one of track and field’s most exciting events. Johnson also found the podium in the women’s 800-meter race with a time of 2:09.33.

All of those seniors will definitely be missed, but what does the future hold? Right now returning sophomore Josh Kirby is looking to improve on his 110-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdle times. Last year he won second place in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.72.

He came in second again on the 400-meter hurdles setting a new PR with a time of 53.16. This time allowed him a top-10 finish in the program’s history, now sitting at ninth.

Along with him, returning juniors Ashley Graham and Khalyia Lawson recorded top 5 performances at the league championships. Graham scored 39’09.75″ (11.83 meters) putting her on the podium in third, while Lawson’s 38’06.25″ (11.74 meters) put her right after her teammate in fourth. Both women broke the top 10 scores in program history as Graham sits at fourth of all time and Lawson is in sixth.

Some impressive scores last year at the Summit League Championships for sure, but what can we expect from our incoming freshmen? Someone that really has people buzzing is Alexis Danner. Coming out of Dowling Catholic in Des Moines, Iowa she has earned All-District and All-Conference honors three times, and made state appearances in the 400-meter hurdles (three times), shuttle hurdle relay, 4×200-meters and 4×400 meters. The incoming freshman was also a two-time state diving championship qualifier and was a two-time letter winner on her high school basketball team also, including a state tournament appearance her senior year.

Meanwhile on the men’s side you have Arturo Bautista. He’s had his fair share of accomplishments including making the All-Conference team in 2016 for cross-country and in the 800-meter race for track. He is also a Track Sectional Champion in the 800-meter race as of last year and even qualified for state championships. Some of his best times include 52 seconds for the 400, 1:55 for his 800 and 4:35 for his mile and a flat 10:00 for his two-mile.

Overall the Leathernecks are looking forward to an exhilarating season. They have some big shoes to fill because of the graduating seniors, but have some promising freshman and returning sophomores and juniors to make up for it. The Purple and Gold will kick-off their season in Charleston, Ill. for the Eastern Illinois Early Bird Opener. It’s set to be in one week on the eighth
at 4 p.m.

Twitter: bradjp08