Young track teams find improvement over winter break

Lucas Aulbach

The track and field teams at WKU had productive breaks, with winning performances in three meets through several record-setting individual showings.

The teams participated in the Kentucky Invitational in Lexington, the Ed Temple Classic in Nashville and the Illini Classic in Champaign, Ill., over the break. 

Several members turned in exceptional performances, including junior Sharika Smith, who is currently ranked third in the country in the triple jump event.

Smith, along with junior Dante Sales and sophomore Shadrack Kipchirchir, have already earned Athlete of the Week honors from the Sun Belt Conference this season.

Smith said she’s improved this season by finding ways to keep herself calm before events.

“I try to come into the meet not thinking about the jump,” Smith said.

Head Coach Eric Jenkins has been impressed with Smith’s performances.

“Any time you have someone performing that well, you hope it can filter to the rest of the team,” he said.

Smith isn’t the only athlete who has stepped up, though.  WKU currently has athletes ranked in the top 50 nationally in 11 events.

Assistant Coach Craig Morehead was pleased with the teams’ performances and said the athletes were largely responsible for their work over winter break.

“Over the break we relied on the kids to do their part and get some work in while they were away,” he said.

Morehead said the teams started practicing together again at WKU on Jan. 4 and have been practicing consistently since then.

“Mondays are our off days,” he said. “When we weren’t at a competition, and it wasn’t Monday, we were practicing.”

The Illini Classic, which took place at the University of Illinois’ armory on Saturday, was the teams’ most recent event. 

Senior Laura Iguane took first in the women’s weight throw at the meet, setting a WKU record in the process. Senior Toms Andersons also won the men’s high jump for the second straight week.

Morehead said the results were encouraging for such an early event.

“There were some bright spots (at the Illini Classic) but it went about how you’d expect the second meet back to go,” he said.

Jenkins described the teams as “young” and stressed the importance of maturing in the next few weeks.

Of the teams’ 54 total members, 26 are freshmen or sophomores.

“We’ve got to continue to grow up and make strides toward being successful,” Jenkins said.

The teams will be in action this Friday and Saturday at the Rod McCravy Invitational in Lexington.

Jenkins said the teams still have plenty to learn, but they will prepare by continuing to work throughout the week.

“This week we’re going to continue to train and work on the nuances of how to conduct yourself and compete at a larger meet,” he said.