Northwest indoor track and field competed in two states in one weekend, sometimes at the very same moments. The team was at both the Bearcat Open Jan. 24-25 in Hughes Fieldhouse and the Jayhawk Classic Jan. 24 in Lawrence, Kansas.
A handful of runners were at the Jayhawk Classic. Coach Brandon Masters spearheaded operational duties for the home track meet while assistant coach Nick Gibson was with the athletes in Lawrence.
The highlight of the Jayhawk Classic was the women’s 4-x-400 meter relay team that consists of seniors Hiba Mahgoub and Jordan Hammond and sophomores Addie Palser and Moe Bianchi. The team ran a 3 minute, 46 seconds, 4 milliseconds race, which is currently the second-fastest time in the nation.
“Wow, they brought it,” Masters said of the women’s 4-x-400 meter relay team.
Masters uttered the phrase “I did not expect” a lot when referring about his team’s performance. The team, Masters said, is in the midst of a pretty grueling training regimen that does not always produce high marks right away.
The same efforts that Masters didn't expect are the ones that boosted the women to No. 3 in the USTFCCCA Top 25 poll. In addition, the men moved up one spot from their preseason ranking of No. 8.
The performance of sophomore Omar Austin was one of those performances Masters did not expect but wasn’t completely surprised by. Austin won the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.78 seconds. Austin was also a part of the second-place men’s 4-x-400 meter relay team along with freshmen Gavyn Monday, Trey Motton and Corbin Smith.
“I never underestimate Omar,” Masters said. “We will see some magic soon in the 400 from him.”
Austin, however, was surprised by how fast he was in the 4-x-400 meter relay.
“It kinda shocked me a little bit,” Austin said. “It’s gonna be a good season right here; it’s gonna be a good one.”
Austin’s preparation in the summer for the 60-meter dash is what he credits to his success. Austin focused on power by getting a lot of time in the weight room, which he said helps him keep his speed and finish strong through the races.
Austin had been nursing a minor groin injury which limited his training going into the meet.
“It kinda had me a little nervous going into my 60,” Austin said. “I’m not normally nervous going into my races because I practice hard.”
Austin was humble when asked what he could work on, saying there is always room for improvement, but he expects to be there at the end.
“I really want to do what I can for this team; I want to help coach get his goals,” Austin said.
Austin expects big things from himself and the team this season, especially at the NCAA Division II National Championships.
“I want to get one of them rings, the big ones,” Austin said.
Senior Audrey Wichmann had one of the standout performances for this weekend. Wichmann, a multi-event athlete, won and set a personal best in the high jump with a jump of 5 feet, 8 1/2 inches. The jump was also good for the second-best in program history.
“Audrey was amazing,” Masters said. “That’s a massive jump for this time of year.”
Wichmann was rather close to clearing the next bar as well but just barely missed the mark.
“I almost got it and I think I could have retired on that bar,” Wichmann said.
Wichmann also participated in the women’s 800-meter run, which she ran in for training purposes for her pentathlon.
“It was really fun to go out there and not really worry about a time but just kinda get an extra practice rep in,” Wichmann said.
Wichmann won the event.
Wichmann is pleased with her and the team’s overall success and thinks Master’s training and team attitude have a lot to do with the early success.
“This year we have had a tremendous buy-in from every single person,” Wichmann said. “We have kind of gotten rid of the negativity that we have had in the past.”
The attitude around the team was the same from the athletes to Masters, early success is great but, what’s important is what comes during conference and nationals.