Track and field teams look forward to Summit League Championships

Jacob VanZuiden, Courier Staff

Next week, the Western Illinois Leathernecks track and field team will get a chance to prove their merits in the competition they’ve been building themselves up for all season long. The Outdoor Summit League Championships will kick off next Wednesday and will be held in the Purple and Gold’s very own backyard. The event will consist of three days held at Hanson Field here in Macomb.

Last time out for the Leathernecks made for a good building point heading into The Summit League Championships. They competed in the Drake Relays last Saturday, which was a four-day event held at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. In what was their last outdoor meet of the season before the big dance this upcoming week, things were really clicking for Western’s 4×200 relay team. The group comprised of freshman Sierra Long, junior Megan Reed, sophomore Amelia Peterson and junior Bo Brasseur fared well in the event against some of the toughest competition they’ve seen thus far. Although they finished in ninth place overall out of a massive 25-team pool, their time of 1:41.43 marked the seventh-fastest 4×200 time in Western Illinois outdoor history. Maybe more impressively, this was the first time this year the Purple and Gold assembled a team for that specific event.

Also in the Drake Relays, Brasseur and Long paired up with graduate Raytoria Richardson and senior Jamieria Stennis to assemble Western’s women’s medley team. A fine group effort in the medley landed their group a time of 4:14.88. As the only male to compete in the event for the Leathernecks, freshman Gabe Cheeks made a statement with a tally of 6.69 meters (21-11.5) in the long jump. Perhaps the biggest bright spot for the Purple and Gold was junior Michaela Bush, who seems to keep breaking school records with ease. She was rock solid across the board, managing a long jump of 5.46 meters, javelin throw of 28.83 meters, and a 2:25.27 time in the 800-meter run. She ended up as the best athlete in the field, setting a new school record with 5,009 points. This shattered her previous record of 4,945, a mark she set at The Summit League Championships just last year. While the team may have planned on a higher-place finish, it was evident that this wasn’t going to be easy against a prestigious Big Ten schools like Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.

One big takeaway from the Drake Relays, however, was a sneak-peek at conference rivals North Dakota State and South Dakota State, both of which will be competing in the upcoming Outdoor Summit League Championships. The rest of the field for next week also includes: Purdue Fort Wayne, Omaha, Oral Roberts, South Dakota and North Dakota.

Western will look to better their strong performance from last season at the outdoor championships. Last year saw three Leathernecks headed to the finals while others chipped in with top performances of their own. In the 2018 league meet, now-junior Josh Kirby punched his ticket to the finals with a 14.88 time in the 400-meter hurdles. Darrius Patterson also was a force for their team, as he posted a blazing time of 10.61 in the 100-meter dash.

For many of these athletes, this won’t be their first rodeo at the season-concluding event. As some will look to better their 2018 performances, some of the underclassmen will try to make an impact in their first go-around at the meet. The Outdoor Summit League Championships will be the team’s last action of the year, so the Leathernecks will be determined to make this one count