With three meets under their belt, the Lane men’s and women’s track and field teams are starting to hit their stride as they prepare for the upcoming Chico Twilight in Chico, Calif., from April 11 to 12.
Several Titans have shined in the past several meets, and due to their accomplishments, five Lane athletes were named NWAACC Track and Field Athletes of the Week in the past three weeks.
On March 27, freshmen Jonathan Cornish and Kristine Dunn, and sophomore Anna Jensen all earned Athlete of the Week honors.
Cornish set a lifetime personal record in the 1,500-meter with a time of 3:59.22 at the Oregon Preview on March 22, and Dunn ran a 2:19.44 800-meter time in her first time running the race this season.
Jensen cleared a height of 11’7″ in the pole vault at the Oregon Preview, just one-quarter of an inch off of her NWAACC winning height from last season.
One week later, two Titans were recognized after their performances at the Lane Multi-Event qualifier, a meet which featured only Lane decathletes and heptathletes.
Sophomore Colton Thurman earned the honor on April 3 after scoring 6,037 points in the decathlon and sophomore Kara Hallock was recognized as well for her performance in the heptathlon.
Hallock scored 4,323 points and set an NWAACC, leading mark in the long jump with a leap of 18’01”.
With nine meets remaining, Grady O’Connor’s teams may have already cleared one of the biggest hurdles of the season.
All 59 Lane athletes were deemed academically eligible following the release of grades from winter term, meaning athletes will no longer have to compete unattached, as many of them have been during the first few meets of the season.
“Every program deals with losing some athlete, be it transfer petitions denied, grades, red-shirting etc,” ’Connor said. “I would say this year was better than average.”
The Titans have shown strong overall performances in the three opening meets.
At the Lane Preview on March 15, eight Titans won individual events while competing against larger schools such as Western Oregon University and Southern Oregon University.
Returning All-American sophomore throwers Leah Wilson and Madison Seaman both captured victories, Wilson in the hammer throw and Seaman in the discus.
Three Lane sprinters swept the 400-meter women’s event. Dunn finished first in a time of 58.39 seconds, and was followed closely by sophomores Macaulay Wilson and Jahzelle Ambus.
Cornish claimed a victory for the Titans’ distance crew with a dramatic finish in the 3,000-meter race. Cornish passed runner-up Joachim Krauth with 100 meters remaining, narrowly beating him with a time of 8:48.19.
Freshman jumper Dakarai Hightower showed why he was one of the top recruits in the nation during the men’s high jump. Hightower soared for a leap of 7’0.50″, four inches higher than the runner-up.
Hightower’s effort in the season’s opening meet has already surpassed the highest jump from any NWAACC athlete last season.
A week later, 18 Lane athletes competed in the Oregon Preview, a qualified-athletes-only meet held at Hayward Field on March 22.
The Titans tested themselves against several former NCAA national champions from UO, as well as former Olympian Bridget Franek of Nike Oregon Track Club Elite, who won the 3,000-meter event.
Hightower claimed the only Titans victory, a first-place tie in the high jump with a season-best leap of 7’1″.
“He’s lights out … . He’s shown that without adrenaline, he’s a 7 foot jumper just stepping on the track and he’s proven that over and over in practice,” O’Connor said.
Jensen led a quartet of Titan pole vaulters, all of whom cleared 10’8” or better, and Wilson claimed the highest finish for all Titan women, placing third in the shot put with a heave of 41’9.25”.
Freshman Jesse Goodier, Lane’s lone entrant in the men’s sprint events, finished tenth overall in a time of 11.05 seconds.
Hallock claimed fifth place for both the long jump and 100-meter hurdles, and also teamed up with Dunn, Wilson and freshman Laura Donaldson to finish third in the 4×400-meter relay.
In the Titans’ most recent meet, the Linfield Icebreaker in Mcminnville, O’Connor gave a teaser of what could be the Titans’ most exciting group this season.
Dunn, Wilson, Ambus and sophomore sprinter Jalen Timms cruised to victory in the women’s 4×100-meter relay event, winning by nearly a second and a half.
Although the four Lane sprinters excelled at the Linfield meet in what was their first time running together, O’Connor said the best is yet to come. He expects them to challenge the school record in the 4×400-meter relay this season.
“On paper, I have never had this kind of women’s 400 speed, or depth,” O’Connor said. “It’s exciting. It’s fun for us to have that team to rally around.”
O’Connor said he is planning to unleash the group in the long relay for the first time at the upcoming Chico Twilight.
Sophomore Alex Sattley picked up two wins in the long jump and the triple jump for the Titans, and Hightower won his third consecutive victory in the high jump to help the Titans sweep the men’s jump events.
Sophomore Sean McGetrick took first in the 110-meter hurdles and second in the 400-meter hurdles.
Seamen, and Trevor Walker each picked up wins in the shot put, and Wilson finished third in the shot put and the hammer throw.
One area of concern for O’Connor has been the men’s pole vault group, one of the Titans’ most talented units.
The Titans have four returning All-American vaulters on their squad, but the group has been troubled by injury and inconsistency, leading to disappointing results thus far.
Sophomore Zach Olivera, last year’s NWAACC champion, has failed to clear a height this season and has been troubled by a back injury and concussion, and 2012 NWAACC champion Eric Jorgensen’s season may be over due to a broken finger.
“It’s affected me a lot,” Olivera said. “But practice has been going really well. I cleared 17 feet today, so I’m hoping to do well this weekend.”