Western track teams begin indoor slate

Jacob VanZuiden, Courier Staff

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CHARLETSON, Ill.—This Friday, the Western Illinois Leatherneck track teams will compete in their first meet of the indoor season when they head to Charleston for the Early Bird Opener.

They’ll go head-to-head against the Eastern Illinois Panthers in their first action of the season. EIU boasts a strong class of freshman, adding four state qualifiers to their 2018 roster. Newcomers Ronald Reed, Jekeel Suber, Matt Ogilvie and Steven Rowe will all look to solidify the program’s winning attitude after a strong finish as a team a season ago.

The Summit League season preview acknowledged multiple different Leathernecks as “Preseason Athletes to Watch.” The athletes that were awarded this honor were none other than juniors Josh Kirby and Michaela Busch. Kirby was one of seven members to make the men’s list, while Busch was one of 10 in the women’s.

Perhaps the more highly coveted athlete of the two is the ever-improving Kirby. Kirby was electric for the team last season as a sophomore, earning his first Summit League medal after setting a personal record in the 110-meter hurdles. He turned in a time of 14.62, good enough to place third in the event. The Creve Coeur native specializes in the 60-meter hurdle, where he recorded a season-best mark of 8.36 at the Black & Gold Premier in the spring. In addition, he opened the 2018 campaign with a win at the EIU John Craft Invite before crowning the indoor season. Kirby had lofty expectations placed upon him when coming to Macomb, those of which he has undoubtedly exceed.

Kirby’s importance to the Purple and Gold’s program is no knock on Busch, who remains one of the team’s most-decorated members. She too made a statement last season at the Summit League Indoor Track and Field Championships while competing in four events: the 60-meter hurdle, 4×400, high jump and a pentathlon. In the high jump, she impressed with a mark of 1.64 meters while posting 3,406 points in the pentathlon, highlighted by a pair of top-five finishes in the high jump and shot put. In these two events, she finished with tallies of 1.58m; 5′ 2.25″ and 11.13m; 36′ 6.25,” respectively.

With two full seasons left under their belts, Kirby and Busch should continue to be a driving force for Western Illinois. Busch will look to shatter her own school record of 3,638 points, a mark she set last year at the Don DeNoon Invitational. Kirby should continue to build on a year where he received All-Summit distinctions, the lone Leatherneck representative. The Summit League has taken notice of this duo’s performance, and with good reason.

Western will have more than enough time after the Early Bird Opener to prepare themselves for their next bout, as this is their last meet until after the first of the new year. The team will take an extended break for Christmas, but will get right back to business as soon as the calendar hits 2019. The Leathernecks will shift their focus to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where they’ll compete in the UNI Invite on Jan. 13.

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