Track-and-field teams rev up for conference meet in Storm Lake

photo contributed by Loras College Athletics

As the Iowa Conference track and field meet approaches,  the Duhawks will travel to Buena Vista this weekend in what will be the conclusion of the indoor season for most of its competitors. That means the time to shine is on the table for many of the track and field athletes.

Throughout the 19 events scheduled across Friday and Saturday, it’s hard to figure what events are vital to the Duhawks as both genders compete for the Championship title. However, head coach Matthew Jones and assistant head coach Robert Schultz have their eyes on quite a view.

“Key events for the Duhawks (this weekend) will be the 400 meter dash, 800 meter run, and pole vault for the men,” coach Schultz said. “For the women, it’s the 800, the 5,000 meter run, the 60 meter hurdles, and pole vault.”

In the men’s 400 meter dash, junior Brandon Gradoville is currently ranked first in the conference with the time of 50.46. He’ll be running alongside his brother, first-year Evan Gradoville, and senior Stedman Foster. Coach Jones expressed his thoughts on the 400.

“Gradoville has a chance to win his first conference title as an individual (in the 400),” he said.

The 800 will be another must-see for spectators on both teams. Senior Zach Frey is currently first in the conference, and sophomore Kylian Lally is ranked sixth. With the top eight scoring, these two are likely to grab Loras a handful of points for the team. Junior Nathan Kimbrell is also competing in the 800, and coach Jones hopes that Kimbrell’s eighth place finish in the 800 at Outdoor Conference last year will be repeated again this weekend.

The women have a good chance of double scoring with first-years Allie Serres and Liz Venezio. The pair are ranked fifth and eighth, respectively, but that’s with senior teammate Alexis Hanson in the rankings, who’s fourth in the conference. Hanson will be focusing her efforts in other events this weekend. That leaves first-year Kemunto Ondande to fill in the gap, and she’s just outside the top 10 rankings.

The three athletes to watch in the pole vault are juniors Elizabeth Brandenburg and Amy Gladis and sophomore Hunter Dunlap. Brandenburg and Dunlap are both leading the conference with their performances so far, and wins from them would be huge for the Duhawks. Brandenburg is also looking to finally break the indoor school record, which she missed by a few centimeters a few weeks ago.

First-year phenom Audrey Miller is undertaking an extremely challenging weekend participating in the mile, the 3K, and the 5K. However, she’s ranked high in each of those events.

“Keep an eye on her tripling this weekend,” coach Jones said.

One of the last events to watch on the track will be the men’s and women’s 60 meter hurdles.  Sophomore Gerrand Moody is currently ranked third, and he’s expected to re-break the school record again and earn All-Conference honors. For the women, Brandenburg and fellow junior Audrey Hooks could sweep the top two places in the event. Both are seeded in the top 25 in the nation, so these two are guaranteed to give an exciting and intense performance that will have spectators’ eyes glued to the track for a quick race.

Coach Jones also has high hopes for the relays on both sides: 4×200, 4×400, 4×800, and the distance medley.

“I believe all of the relays have the chance to be All-Conference,” Jones said.

Last but not least, Jones is looking forward to seeing the throwers, mostly consisting of first-years, perform this year.

“The top places are mostly locked up, but the bottom half is open,” he said. “Most of them are performing at a meet like Conference for the first time, and all any one of them needs is that one big mark to push them into fifth, sixth, or seventh.”

Coach Schultz is excited beyond just these few events to watch.

“I’m also just excited for Indoor Conference because I feel the atmosphere is better than any meet we compete in as a team all season,” Schultz said.

For those who can’t make the long drive to Buena Vista this weekend, there will be a live video stream of the events on the university’s athletics website.

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