TRACK: Throwers anchor Hilltoppers at MTSU

Amber North

Western’s track team was well prepared as it competed in the Middle Tennessee State University Invitational over the weekend.

The team traveled to Murfreesboro where the performances of sophomore Raigo Toompu and junior Erin Gruenke earned Sun Belt Performers of the Week honors. This was the third honor of Toompu’s career and Gruenke’s first.

The stars of the meet were sophomore Cara Nichols and Toompu. Nichols ran a career-best in the 800-meter run (2 minutes, 16.74 seconds), holding the top spot in the Sun Belt Conference.

Toompu outdid last week’s performance and took home both the shot and weight throw wins.

Also holding top spots in the Sun Belt were sophomore Nick Bacon in the 800 meters, senior Olga Cronin in the 3,000 meters, and junior Misty Hair in the 20-pound weight throw.

But Nichols and Toompu weren’t the only performers shining at the meet.

Cronin recorded her best indoor time in the mile run (5:07.60), which was good enough to place second overall; teammate Bonita Paul was next with her best indoor time (5:11.70), good enough to place third. On the men’s side, junior David Altmaier finished second collegiately in the 3,000-meter run.

Although MTSU has been the only Sun Belt conference team they have competed against, the Hilltoppers are enhancing their performance for tougher competition down the road.

“Southern schools, such as University of Southern Louisiana and Northern Texas, have an advantage over us because they get to practice outdoors and the weather is not as cold,” Western assistant coach Erik Jenkins said.

“When you compare us to MTSU and Arkansas State, they have an advantage due to their indoor facilities.”

The addition of football players who are training to get into shape for the next football season has been a significant part of the team. Junior offensive lineman Ryan Thomas was second place at the weight throw behind teammate Toompu.

The throwers are improving each meet, and like distance runner David Altmaier said, they are “performing pretty well.”

“Pretty well” is an understatement, considering the fact that Toompu is continuing to dominate and that freshman Kristo Galeta is rising. With the two leading the way, the men’s throwing team will be strong contenders in conference play.

Reach Amber North at [email protected]