In their last regular meet of the season, the track and field team did not disappoint at the Dr. Tucker Open, hosted at home last Friday, May 5. Not one but two stadium records fell to Duhawks at the meet, and despite the meet hosting the most teams it has seen in recent years, the Duhawks emerged victorious in 15 events, including a four-way sweep of the relays.
“I try not to show a lot of emotion (during meets),” head coach Matt Jones said post-meet, “but I felt like tonight I was excited a lot, which is a good thing. I felt like every time I looked up at the board on the track: (personal records) and major drops from people’s times. We’re all so happy with our team. We showed up really well tonight.”
Some of the more notable performances of the evening led to national qualifying times. First-year Patrick Mikel ran a time of 47.74 in the men’s 400 meter dash, placing him seventh in the national rankings. Junior Kylian Lally also claimed a spot in the national rankings, running a time of 1:50.55 in the 800 meter race, which is currently fourth in the country. Mikel and Lally then showed up in the men’s 4×400 relay along with teammates Brandon Gradoville and Shamari Scott to run the phenomenal time of 3:14.51, placing them fourth on the national qualifying list. Liz Brandenburg also claimed a seventh place position in the national rankings with a vault of 3.82 meters.
Friday’s meet also marked senior recognition night for the Loras track and field team. 15 seniors were recognized on the field before the first race began.
As mentioned previously, Brandenburg vault solidified her place on the national qualifying list.
“She’s always been that kind of person that peaks at the right time, so I’m hoping that this is that time,” Jones said.
Brandenburg is a four-time All-American, most recently tying for eighth place in the pole vault during the 2017 indoor national championships. A highlight of her career was her incredible second place finish last season at the 2016 outdoor national championships. Brandenburg also holds the school record in the women’s pole vault.
Aside Brandenburg, a few other senior pole vaulters were recognized before the meet such as David Rodgers, one of this year’s team captains, Amy Gladis, and Devan Kennedy, who won the men’s pole vault on Friday with a height of 4.46 meters.
Also recognized was senior Audrey Hooks who has appeared on the national stage multiple times. Despite suffering a fracture in her arm, Hooks remained positive and did not let this accident affect her outdoor season. Anyone who knows her will know her kindness, optimism, and humility about her success, as well as her resilience in the face of setbacks.
Senior Alexis Hanson has also had her own share of success in her track and field career. This past weekend, she ran on the 4×400 relay with a time of 3:55.04, which was recorded in the Loras record book as 10th all-time. Hanson also traveled to the national track and field championships for the 4×400 last year, breaking the outdoor 4×400 school record with a time of 3:48.27 in order to qualify.
Another athlete who excels in the 400 meter race is senior Brandon Gradoville, who became an All-American his sophomore year at Loras. His speed in the 400 has also helped Loras’ 4×400 relay team become ranked at fourth in the nation, and he will hopefully add another All-American honor to his repertoire at the 2017 outdoor national championships in Ohio.
Senior distance duo Colin Ensminger and Ben Hedges have had a successful four years of cross country and track together, both participating on the national stage in cross country and sharing races together in indoor and outdoor track seasons throughout their careers. Along with these two, mid-distance phenom Nate Kimbrell has really finished strong this year in his last year of track and field. A member of both the cross country and track and field teams, Kimbrell found his niche on the track team in the 800 meter race. A surprise qualification to the 2017 indoor national championships was a highlight of his career, and he finished strong in 11th place with a time of 1:54.028, beating four people who had been ranked before him.
Senior Brien Nugent, another mid-distance runner, has had his own roller coaster of a running career at Loras. A naturally gifted runner, he went through double-leg surgery and went from a wheelchair to running in three months. This feat not only demonstrates his commitment to running, but also his resilience to any challenges that come his way. At Friday’s meet, he ran a personal best in the 1500 meter race with a time of 3:57.25, breaking four minutes and giving him confidence for the conference meet this upcoming weekend, where he will run the 1500 again. Two other mid-distance seniors we recognized at the awards: Leta Jaquis and Lindsey Gidel. Both were tremendous assets to the team and will be greatly missed.
Another distance runner, senior Emily Day, ran a personal best of 4:53.36 in the 1500 on Friday, breaking five minutes. However, the 1500 is not Day’s main race; she is a better known steeple chaser, holding the school record with a time of 11:37.05, and looking to improve upon this time in her final races of the season. Day has been a captain on the women’s cross country team and a multiple-time All-Conference and All-Region honoree in her running career at Loras.
The track and field team next competes in their conference meet, hosted by Buena Vista, on May 12 and 13.