BY JOHN WYATT – SPORTS SECTION EDITOR
Riding off a narrow second place finish in 2014 for the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) championship, Centre College Men’s Track and Field team enters the 2015 season incredibly optimistic, and with clear target in sight.
“Going into the season, the team had common goal. Coach [Lisa] Owens, after lots of number crunching, told all of us that we have a very good shot at winning conference this year,” sophomore Stephen Orr said.
Last year, the Colonels finished just two points behind the Rhodes College Lynxes in the 2014 SAA finals, and in all scored outdoor meets, they finished no lower than third place. From that team, the Colonels return five of the 13 All-SAA athletes to compete again in 2015 and make another run at winning the conference championship.
In nearly all events, the Colonels return top-notch scorers. All-SAA high jumper sophomore Elijah Scott will return, along with top scoring pole-vaulters junior Isaac Toney and sophomores Seth Yocum and Stephen Orr.
Top scoring throwers are also returning. Senior Ryan Arey and 2014 SAA Shot Put Champion sophomore Joshua King will return to continue to score big for the Colonels, although King is currently sitting out with an injury.
He is not letting it dampen his spirits though. Instead, King is focusing on celebrating for his teammates.
“The team as a whole has being doing great so far; I couldn’t ask for a better group to compete with this season,” King said. “[We] feel great moving forward.”
Right now, Men’s Track and Field are in the indoor phase of their season, which Yocum explains is a little different from outdoor meets.
“Indoor meets are used basically as practice and is especially useful to get freshmen to compete and understand how college track works and to get their anxieties out,” Yocum said.
“The outdoor meets are taken much more seriously and have a focus on individual performances (breaking records, setting personal records and overall improvement, oh and of course beating Rhodes at any possible time).”
So far, the Colonels have competed at two meets their season opener at the DePauw Indoor Invitational and at the Fred Wilt Memorial Invitational.
At Depauw, Centre finished 8 out of 15. They came away with an event victory and a tie for a school record.
The one event victory came from junior Victor Pataky in the 3000m. Senior Eric Beyerle also participated in the 3000m and earned fourth place.
Elijah Scott’s high jump of 6-4.75 tied a school record set by former Centre National Champion Chrys Jones back in 2008. Scott earned third place in the high jump event.
At the Fred Wilt Memorial Invitational, the men finished sixth out of the 18 teams competing. Pataky brought the team’s only win, securing first place in the 5k run. Pataky fell short of a Centre indoor record in the process. Senior Colin Wurster, juniors Daniel Graham and Matt McCurdy, and first-year Tristen Morrow took second place in the 4x400m relay, setting a school record time at 3:29.74.
Going forward, the team is keeping its eye on the prize, but is still managing to enjoy themselves along the way.
“Right now we are just trying to get the best workouts we can while indoors, but once we get to go back outside, I believe everyone will be putting in the extra effort to push themselves,” Orr said.
“Another big thing that Coach Owens emphasized was having fun competing, as well as celebrating with our teammates because there are a limited number of meets and the season goes by fast,” King said.
Already a third of the way through their season, the Men’s Track and Field team (as well as the women’s team, who also competed strongly last year) looks to make another strong run at a conference title. Their next meet will take place on Fri., March 6 at the Last Chance National Indoor Qualifier.