After stellar showings, women’s track primed for next step

By Kathryn Stewart

Coming off an excellent spring showing last year and an impressive indoor season, the women are hoping to repeat, if not improve, on last year’s successes.

The women will benefit from a strong foundation built during the indoor season, a bevy of returning national qualifiers, and a rigorous competition schedule building up to NCAAs. With a highly-focused squad boasting accomplished veterans and several exceptional rookies, the Maroons can expect a top-notch season.

“We had a great season last year, and a lot of those athletes are returning for this season,” head coach Chris Hall said. “But you always have to have goals to be better than next year, and I think that we can accomplish that this season.”

The return of second-year Myra Collins will bolster hopes for an exceptional season. The jumper/sprinter was forced to sit out most of the 2005 outdoor and 2006 indoor seasons due to a persistent hamstring injury. Collins took her healing hamstrings out for a test drive at the 2006 UAA indoor meet and snagged a third-place finish in the long jump (5.17). While she will have to compete cautiously, Collins is expected to be a major point scorer for the Maroons.

“She hit a national standard in the long jump and 4×100 last year,” coach Hall said. “We think it’s safe for her to jump, maybe not sprint just yet. We’re really excited to have her back.”

Another second-year to make her track debut at the end of the indoor season was double-threat Nofi Mojidi. The All-Maroons women’s hoops MVP wasted little time trading in the parquet for the straightaway, competing at indoor UAAs less than a week after basketball season ended. Mojidi took third in the 55- (7.42) and 200-meter (26.20) dashes and took a turn around the track to help the 4×400-meter relay team snatch the third spot (4:05.36). Mojidi ran at last year’s NCAAs in the 200 and as a member of the 4×400-meter relay that also included third-year Trina Ruhland, second-year Cynthia Lin, and Stephanie St. Clair (A.B. ’05).

Mojidi and Collins will be joined by a few more returning racers who were absent for the indoor season. Third-year distance runner Dilshanie Perera spent the indoor season abroad in Cape Town, South Africa but will end her quarter-long sabbatical to race for the Maroons this spring. Fourth-year javelin thrower Katie Meinhover and first-year Allie Barner, who were forced to sit out much of the indoor season due to injuries, will make their way back to the track and onto the field for the outdoor season.

A new addition to the Maroons’ normal meet schedule could give the women an extra chance to race against the best in the nation. Given the women’s depth on the distance and sprinting squads, the Maroons may make a showing at the noteworthy Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. The Relays, which has conflicted with UAAs in past years, will take place the weekend following this year’s conference meet.

“We haven’t talked to the athletes about going to the Drake Relays yet, but I think the women’s team could qualify a relay or two to race there,” Hall said. “We have a great distance medley relay and we could easily put together a sprint medley.”

While the women have the athletic prowess to race at Drake, if traveling to and competing in Iowa requires excessive missed class time the squad will be forced to delay any plans to race at the meet for another year.

“Since we’ll probably be taking relays, if the weekend doesn’t work for one person, it doesn’t work for the whole squad,” Hall said. “We really don’t want to create additional stress with this meet. In fact, it would really just be a reward for out athletes to go and race in front of 18,000 people.”

The women are facing a season of big meets and possibly big successes. The outdoor season kicks off on Saturday at the Elmhurst Invitational in Elmhurst, Illinois.