Track and Field kick off in Charleston

Michaela Bush dashes down the track over the hurdles.

Michaela Bush dashes down the track over the hurdles.

Bradley Piros, Courier Staff

MACOMB Ill. – The Western Illinois University track and field teams kick off their season over in Charleston, Ill. to take on their rivaling Eastern Illinois University Panthers. It’s the start of a new season for both teams, and it won’t be easy for either one of them.

While the Panthers aren’t a Summit League foe, the Leathernecks are still looking to take this one seriously. Their first meet of the season is an important one because it lets coaches and players know where they stand against the competition. The Panthers are a good team to go against, especially because of the rivalry, and they look to be a tough opponent for Western.

Western was recently ranked No. 5 in the Summit League Indoor Pre-Season Polls. Above them is South Dakota State University as well as South Dakota University, but ranked No. 1 for the second year in a row was the North Dakota State University Jackrabbits. While none of that really matters in this season opener, it just means that the Leathernecks are starting at the bottom giving them room to grow.

With those rankings published, Western is out to prove everyone wrong and get this early season victory against the Panthers. Western is also looking to do something they haven’t done in a while, which is beat the Panthers.

The last time these two teams met was when the Panthers hosted the Big Blue Classic back in March of this year. A total of 11 teams competed out at O’Brien Field that weekend including some solid competition such as Illinois State University, Indiana State University, the University of Illinois and Bradley University, just to name a few. The Redbirds finished first for the women, followed by Eastern in second and then Western at fifth. EIU came out on top though in the men’s department while the Leathernecks settled in at 8th.

The point is, the Panthers have had the upper hand on the Leathernecks for a while now, and Western is out to change that. Either way, it will be a great meet, but who are some names needing to be looking out for?

Well, let’s start off by saying that Eastern lost a ton of great seniors that held them together throughout the season. This is a pretty young group, while the Leathernecks are fairly diversified in class rank.

With that being said, let’s start off with the Leathernecks; there’s three ladies you need to be looking out for: freshman Alexis Danner, junior Khalyia Lawson and sophomore Allison Richter. Expect to see Danner and Lawson on the 4 x 400 together a lot this year. Danner took her team to state in three events, and this was one of them. Lawson clocked in a nice 4:06.08 back in April. Allison Richter on the other hand focuses on field events, with her specialty being javelin. She has the second-best all-time record for Western with a throw coming in at 40.08 meters. She came to Western as a freshman with a conference championship in shot put, discus and the 4 x 100 relay.

Of the men from EIU, sophomore Bryce Billings is looking to come back and improve on his 100 and 200-meter times. Last season he recorded a time of 11.2 seconds for the 100 and 23.35 for the 200. Alongside him you have Marcus Skinner, a returning sophomore who ran a season best 25:17.7 for the 8K.

He specializes in long-distance events, participating in the 3K, 5K, 8K and 10K. Lastly, for the Panthers you have Ashton Wilson, a junior high jumper, who made the 2nd Team All OVC (Ohio Valley Conference) with his best score being 6′ 7.75″

Expect all of these athletes to be tallying up some points for their respected teams.

Once again, the meet is this Saturday, December 9th in Charleston, Illinois. Field events start at 2 p.m. and track events start at 4p.m.