Mojidi’s run to daylight paces track at Wheaton

By Tim Murphy

A sunny day and spikes on her feet were all Nofi Mojidi needed to make history. In less time than most people take to finish a Pop-Tart, the second-year sprinted her way into the school record books. Again.

Behind the two-sport star’s national-qualifying finish in the 200-meter dash, the Maroons submitted a strong showing at the Wheaton Invitational in their final meet before Saturday’s UAAs. The women’s squad placed third out of seven teams with 155 points while the men grabbed fourth with 78 points. The day belonged to Mojidi, who after putting her spikes on at the beginning of the meet, decided not to mess with a good thing and kept them on all day en route to breaking her own school record in the 200 with a mark of 25.07. “I’m not accustomed to [keeping my spikes on]. But they just felt so good after my team had won the 4×100 that I didn’t want to take them off,” Mojidi said. “It was a beautiful day outside, and such beautiful weather is very encouraging for me.”

As has been the case throughout much of the year, the women were the class of the competition in the jumping events. Second-year Appie Hirve took first in the triple jump (10.91m) while first-year Olivia Ndyabagye and second-year Cynthia Lin both earned bests of 5.16 meters in the long jump to take first and second. Fourth-year Sarah Eldridge edged Hirve on a tiebreaker in the high jump as the two took third and fourth with leaps of 1.52. The jumpers’ consistency has continued to be a hallmark for the Maroons after an outstanding indoor campaign earned Ndyabagye a trip to nationals.

“It means a lot going into the conference meet. We’ve got a known commodity,” head coach Chris Hall said. “It’s nice to be able to rely on that.”

The outstanding efforts continued in the distance events. Third-years Jackie Kropp (4:54.15) and Al Robertson (5:00.16) crossed the line in third and fifth in the 1,500. In the 800, fourth-year Jessica Winter finished in a slower-than-expected 2:19.02 but demonstrated that a tough day for an All-American beats a good day for almost anyone else by grabbing second place.

“Jessica pretty much delivers every time she steps out on the track. She figured it out when she was a sophomore and she’s been going strong every since,” Hall said.

The team’s strongest performance of the day came from the sprint corps, highlighted by Mojidi. After helping the 4×100 relay team to victory in 49.78, she earned a third-place finish in the 100-meter dash to edge out Ndyabagye. Because the race was started from the wrong line, the times from the event were disregarded. She more than made up for the officials’ error in her final event of the day. With the sun beating down, Mojidi exploded out of the blocks and never looked back, cruising to her historic mark.

“As I stepped into the blocks for the 200m, I said to myself, this is my event, no looking back, run all the way through. As I heard the gun go off I did exactly what I told myself to do, and as I crossed through the finish line the only thing could say to myself was ‘that felt fast.’ Looking back at my time as I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t believe what it said.”

While the men set no records, they succeeded in producing their share of solid performances. With the UAAs on tap April 22–23, runners competed at shorter distances than usual and ran more for time than place.

“They ran pretty well, jumped pretty well, and threw alright. It was a good weekend for our guys,” Hall said. “It wasn’t our goal to do great as a team. The only thing that we were trying to do was continue to establish performances and get some seed times for the conference meet. We didn’t want to run too much. We succeeded in that and we’ll be read for the UAAs. It was a tuneup meet.”

Anchored as usual by the distance team, the Maroons received their sole first-place finish from third-year Emil Bojanov in the 800 in 1:56.55.

“I ran the 800 hoping to post a fast time that would get me a high seed in the 800 prelims at conference,” Bojanov said. “The 1:56 I ran was OK, considering it was a little windy and the competition wasn’t as good as expected.”

Fourth-year Teage O’Connor grabbed fourth in the 1,500 with a 4:08.10 mark. In the 110-meter high hurdles, third-year Mike Doll put forth a stellar effort to cross the line in 15.87, claiming the seventh spot.

In addition to the usual suspects’ strong performances, the Maroons received a number of notable races from more unsung team members. First-year Eugene Kobayashi, running alone for much of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, earned his first victory of the year with a 11:04.69 showing. Classmate Dan Beksha impressed in the short sprints, coming in 15th in the 100-meter in 11.42

“Dan introduced himself to the conference with what he did in the 100,” Hall said. “He came back and ran a strong leg of the relay.”

The teams will have a week of practice before flying south for the UAA championships. With a strong showing in Wheaton, the Maroons sent a message that they have the talent to put on a show in Atlanta and beyond. Now if they could only do something about the weather.