As the Northwest track and field team heads into its first indoor meet Dec. 6, the program is heavily relying on the 2019 recruiting class. With roughly 24 true freshmen on the squad, the Bearcats are hoping to use the newly-acquired talent to help guide the team in a successful direction for the 2019-20 season.
A bulk of the freshmen on both the men's and women's teams participate in sprints, which allowed the coaches to grow the team and build up talent in areas that have low numbers or need a more stable foundation during recruiting.
With talent and overall performance being the top priority when looking at recruits, the track and field coaches wanted to hone in on growing the size of the program and bringing in well-rounded athletes.
“I think the biggest thing is that our numbers were low last year when we got here,” assistant coach Nick Gibson said. “We wanted to grow our numbers, in the ladies especially, because the more numbers we have, the more opportunity we have for athletes to possibly score to help us do well. I think we just had a really good freshman recruiting class.”
As athletes like senior high jumper and heptathlon participant Audrey Wichmann and senior sprinter Hiba Mahgoub get ready for their last season in a Northwest uniform, the program used the offseason to prepare for the new freshman to take their place.
For many of the freshman athletes, this season will be a chance for them to grow and perform at a level in which they’ve never competed. The 2019-20 season is one that will push and challenge them and allow them to prepare to take those leadership roles in the future.
“I feel like transitioning is a bigger focus and a bigger mindset. You know you’re going against girls who are not only older than you but stronger than you,” freshman high jumper Jada Shanklin said. “They may have had more experience than you, so I feel like its a learning process and every day when we come into practice; we have to remember that. I just feel like as long as our mindsets are right and as long as our focus is here in practice every day then we should do good.”
With the Mel Tjeerdsma Classic coming up Dec. 6 in Hughes Fieldhouse, the coaches are expecting several freshmen to step forward and start recording points for the Bearcats early on in their careers.
Several freshmen have already made their presence known at practice by pushing themselves and being leaders for other freshmen.
Throughout the recruiting process, Northwest tries to find and recruit athletes that are promising and successful both on and off of the track. While the recruiting process has worked in the past, this year’s large freshman group shows that Northwest is pursuing these well-rounded athletes but these athletes also want to come to Northwest and participate in a winning tradition.
This holds true for several athletes who come from all over the world to represent Northwest. Spain, Peru, Kenya, Illinois, Georgia and many more locations represent the home states or countries for the athletes of the program. This desire to win is also seen in Shanklin, who chose to come to Northwest from her hometown of Houston, Texas.
“Jaleesa McWashington is a true freshman from the Kansas City area, and she tested really well,” Gibson said. “Those are two freshmen that, for sure, have definitely stood out. … So, for us it wasn't a big surprise, it was just like a, ‘OK, we know who they are and they are what they are,’ and we’re excited to watch them compete in a Bearcat uniform.”