With the Northwest track and field team gearing up for its first indoor tournament, the Mel Tjeerdsma Classic, Dec. 6-7, its focus is to hone in on the events that are struggling and better the team overall.
Coach Brandon Masters and assistant coach Nick Gibson have recruited a strong incoming class, while being backed by a successful core group of older athletes. This year, the team brings back talented athletes on the men's side like sophomore sprinter Omar Austin and senior athlete Marcus Klein to lead the team in a positive direction for this upcoming season.
“Our men's team is pretty exciting right now. Obviously, we bring back a big nucleus of the team that finished second last year in the MIAA and pretty high nationally as well,” Masters said. “We did lose Kevin Schultz, which is a big deal, but we did bring in some really high-level distance guys, so we expect to score a lot of points on the distance side. We’re looking good with the freshman group and the transfers to be a much better team than last year.”
The core class, Masters said, headlined by Austin, senior jumper Mercedes Isaacson-Cover and senior athlete Jordan Hammond, is supposed to score well for the team again this season. Despite having those three, the distance runners that both the men and women have added are expected to be the strongest piece to the puzzle that is Northwest cross country.
“For track and field, this is exciting because a lot of these guys are pretty good on the track as well. We’re going to see a lot of that transfer over to the track,” Masters said. “We’re really a scary team when it comes to all of the things we can score in. Nationally, we’re on the high end. When we have that type of talent, we simply have to get them to the meet and have a good meet when we get there.”
After the ’Cats men’s team placed second and the women's team placed seventh at the 2019 MIAA Indoor Championship Meet on their home track in the Hughes Fieldhouse, the team is coming back this season with revenge on their minds. The men were beat by less than 10 points by Central Missouri. With this loss being handed to the Bearcats both during the MIAA Championship and on their home track, Northwest now seeks to redeem themselves this year.
“You don't want any team to come into your facility and do a victory lap. I don't like to lose. Period. I think my team understands that the culture is we’re going to win, we’re going to win together, and we’re going to win as a family,” Masters said. “They remember. Losing by six points is hard. This year, we want to make a statement, and we’re really good, not saying that they're not, but I think we have the talent, and we have the depth to be able to do that.”
As the indoor season begins in less than a month, the Bearcats are ready for the season and ready for revenge at the MIAA Championships Feb. 4. Preparing for the last 12 weeks has given the coaching staff an idea of who will continue to be successful this season and who will step up and be that support leg when the team needs it the most.
“Our senior class, they are studs, man. They're going to score a lot of points for us. But we have a very talented freshman group, and we have some people that have really stepped up over the last year,” Masters said. “I think we’re going to be really tough to beat. We got a couple of transfers, and we got a few ladies that can run. We have such an amazing group of seniors and senior leaders that anything is possible.”