Women’s track & field confident heading into MIAC Championships

It can sometimes be easy to fall into the trap of thinking of track and field as an individual sport. After all, what could be more personal than running? However, a quick conversation with any members of the Mac women’s track and field team will easily dispel that notion. The support between teammates is palpable and crucial. For captain Rachel Gunsalus ’13 (Los Gatos, CA), her season highlight was not simply winning her heat of the 3000m at the University of Minnesota Parent’s Day Open on Feb. 16, but having “[coach] Betsy Emerson yelling my splits and the best cheering section of teammates to watch.”

The women’s team is the strongest it’s been in several years, but competes with several teams boasting rosters nearly twice as large. While the team’s numbers were enough to have athletes competing in nearly all events at the Indoor Championships, placing in the top half of the MIAC will be a challenge. However, as captain Shasta Webb ’13 (Santa Cruz, CA) proudly pointed out, Mac has at least one representative in the top 10 of nearly every MIAC sprinting and field event. While this impressive quality makes it difficult to highlight outstanding individuals, it certainly bodes well for the state of the program.

Webb herself is on a quest to set a school record in the 60 meter sprint as well as score for Mac at conference, while Irene Gibson ’15 already possesses school records in the 600 meters and 4×400 meter relay. Webb’s sights are also set on a top finish in the 400 meters where she will be challenged by Daiga Kravale ’14. The depth of endurance sprinters means that Mac will field a strong team for the 4×400 meter relay in next weekend’s MIAC championships. The women’s 4×400 meter relay is currently ranked fifth in conference with a time of 4:08.14.

The 4×200 meter relay, also ranked fifth, consists of Webb, Kravale, Erin Ortiz ’15, and Ana Armitage ’14, who currently holds the 200m open school record with a time of 26.10. Mac will also send Emily Diener ’15 to conference in the open 200m and Judy Syrkin-Nikolau ’15 in the 60m hurdles.

The longer distance runners carry over a “Mac Pack” mentality from the cross-country season. As Gunsalus puts it, the runners to watch out for are “anybody with the letters M-A-C on their uniforms.” However the humility of this statement obscures the fact that Gunsalus has set significant personal records in each of her past two meets and looks set for an impressive top five finish next week. Still, she deflected personal praise by noting that “as a team, these women are blowing up all their old records and PR-ing like its their M.O.,” and it appears they are starting to get the hang of “seeing how consistently [they] can run in a circle.”

Highlighting the field events is another senior captain, Kate Rochat ’13 (Portland, OR). She is within striking distance of school records in the triple jump and long jump, and will enter the conference meet ranked first in triple jump. She said that the team-wide goal is to “always to train hard, kick butt and have fun.” These may seem like lofty, even unattainable goals, but Rochat would like to assure that the team has been quite successful in carrying them out.

The field events are affected by the same numbers crunch as the rest of the team, but Rochat believes the team as a whole is “strong and getting stronger…In my four years here I’ve seen the team grow a lot, both in size and in talent. I have no doubt that in the upcoming years Macalester will move up in the MIAC rankings.”

Joining this climb up the rankings will be young throwers Risa Luther ‘16 (Portland, OR) in the discus, and Katie Banowetz ‘16 (Corvallis, OR), who hurls a mean javelin. In fact, Banowetz recently set personal records on three consecutive weight and shot put throws in the same meet, a measure of gains made over the course of a season of hard work. Luther and Banowetz will have their chance to shine in the outdoor season, as discus and javelin are not held during the Indoor season.

The leader of the throw squad is Stephanie Goei ‘15 (Shoreline, WA), the new school record holder in the 20lb weight throw. Goei noted that while the current crop of throwers are awesome, there are currently only six participants, so if anyone is interested in throwing their hat in the ring, they would be sure to have an enjoyable experience.

Overall it has been a strong indoor track and field season for the women of Macalester. In the Pre-MIAC Meeting, which took place in the Leonard Center Field House on Friday, Feb, 22, the whole team put on quite a show, as Scots won five events and set many personal records.

The season will culminate this Friday and Saturday (Mar. 1-2) at the MIAC Championships at St. Olaf College. For some, it will be the last chance to break elusive school records, while for others it will be an opportunity to put their own records even further out of reach for future generations. For all, it will be a chance to test themselves against the best athletes the MIAC has to offer, but more importantly to test themselves against, well, themselves. The conference meet will be the fruition of much hard work, and will provide a final payoff before the coming of outdoor track and the renewed reward that is Vitamin D.