TRACK & FIELD: Cronin anchors Tops at meet

Amber North

Despite hectic weather conditions, the Western track and field team headed to Lexington to compete at the Kentucky Invitational last weekend.

The team competed for the first time since its Dec. 8 meet at the Middle Tennessee State University Invitational. Other teams competing Saturday included Auburn, Clemson, Eastern Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Marshall and conference rivals Arkansas State and MTSU.

Because of the month hiatus, it was difficult to perform as well as the team wanted.

“We’re able to see people where they are in situations — where they may work and see the starting point for each team,” head coach Curtiss Long said.

The team had limited preparation time due to the snow in the first week back.

“Early meets are the best practice days of the week,” Long said.

During the long break, Long said quite a few performers have improved. Among those to improve was thrower Raigo Toompu.

Toompu placed second overall in the shot put competitions, throwing more than three feet better than last year.

“I think I did quite well. Nothing’s perfect, but will come at a time,” Toompu said.

Although he is only a sophomore, throwing coach Jeremy Camron said that Toompu could be an All-American this year.

“His dedication, work ethic, and (that) he is always focusing on what he can improve is his main strength,” he said.

Freshman Shanea Wilson continues to impress as she recorded her best time in the 200-meter dash (25.60), where she placed third.

Another freshman sensation, Kristo Galeta from Estonia, has been performing well on the men’s throwing team. He threw a 50.2 in the shot put competition, placing sixth.

“He’s been in the country for only a week, so these are all new experiences for him,” Long said.

Distance runner Olga Cronin overcame a jet lag after returning from her home country, Ireland, last Thursday night. She was able to place third in the 3,000-meter run.

Behind her by just two-tenths of a second was sophomore Bonita Paul. Erin Gruenke, who transferred from Kentucky, performed her best in the shot put competition.

Although the team did well for their first time back, Coach Long still says that they have a long way to go.

The strengths of the team are the distance runners and the men’s continuing progress in throwing.

“The throwers have improved by a long shot,” Camron said. “We’re very hard to beat at throwing in our conference.”

The main weakness is the loss of key performers.

Senior Justin Miller is out for four to six months after having a serious knee surgery, which takes him out for both the indoor and outdoor seasons.

Miller will be eligible for a fifth year next year. Long is still uncertain whether distance runner Enda Grandfield will be able to return.

“Injuries made it difficult and took out a good size population,” Long said. “It has taken out better people and our young athletes aren’t ready to fill that void yet.”

Still, they’re working hard to become a better team.

Student assistant Craig Morehead said that compared to other schools in the conference, he thinks Western is more balanced.

“We need to train harder to get to where we want to be right now,” Cronin said.

The team will face MTSU again at its invitational Saturday. While Morehead said he thinks MTSU will be tough to compete against, Long said there isn’t just one team that will be their toughest competition.

“Every competition will be a tough competition,” he said. “That’s how our schedule is designed — based on quality and competition — and that it challenges each weekend to make the team better.”

Reach Amber North at [email protected]