Track teams to open outdoor season in Knoxville


Distance junior Megan O’Neil races in the one mile run on Feb. 25 at Bowen Field House.

After finishing in seventh place at the Mid-American Conference Indoor Championships on Feb. 25, head coach Mark Guthrie has high hopes for the Central Michigan track and field team heading into the outdoor season.

“The MAC (Indoor Championships) were a good test (to see) who rose and fell since the start of the season,” Guthrie said. “With more athletes and more events outdoors, this is really like a whole new season.”

The first outdoor meet will be 11 a.m. on March 25 at the “Tennessee Rust Buster” in Knoxville.

“It’s another chance to show what we have," senior thrower Dylan Banagis said. "(It's) another chance to take home a win.”

After placing in the top three in the weight throw every meet this season — including four first-place finishes — Banagis has been setting personal records all season. In his final meet, Banagis finished second in the Indoor Championships with a career-high 21.11 meters to finish second in the weight throw.

Last season’s MAC Outdoor Championship ended with a fifth-place team finish for the women and fourth for the men. Guthrie said the outdoor season is significantly different from indoors.

There are more events outdoors, such as the javelin throw, discus, steeplechase and 400-meter hurdles, all of which have been strongpoints for the team. Freshman star Luke Anderson has Guthrie’s hopes high in the steeplechase, as well.

As well as the logistical differences, there are many elements of outdoor play that differ from indoor.

“Obviously it starts with the weather,” Guthrie said. “We follow the weather, so we’ll be traveling farther away from this area. The long rides are fun on the way there, until you arrive home at 3 a.m. on a Sunday.”

The only first place finisher from last season returning will be senior Ziemowit Dutkiewicz from Czempin, Poland.

Dutkiewicz was ranked second in the men’s 400 hurdles last season before the championships. His winning time of 51.34 was also his career-best mark. He did not compete in the indoor season.

“Z” — as the team affectionately calls him — won’t be participating in the first few meets. The runner is, in Guthrie’s eyes, already able to win the MAC title at less than 100 percent. Because of that, the start of his training will be delayed to avoid wearing him out for a possible Nationals run.

“It’s not like team sports — football or basketball,” Guthrie said. “There’s different levels of training for different levels of athletes.”

The lone first-place finisher at the Indoor Championships, sophomore Samantha Cuneo, will seek to replicate her success from last year's outdoor season. Her 54.29 finish in the women’s 400 gave her second place.

“I’d like to hit 53.8 (seconds),” Cuneo said. “But really, I just want to get better than I did the time before. That’s really the only goal.”

Guthrie was more specific with his goal for Cuneo, saying he hopes to see her hit 53.76.

“She’s a dedicated athlete who takes care of her body,” he said. “It’s a very reasonable, if high, goal.”

Sophomore long sprinter Benjamin Hayes is coming off an indoor season in which he took two first-place finishes. He ended this past indoor season the same way he finished last outdoor season by taking second place in the MAC Championships.

Freshman Nadia Williams will be new to the outdoor game, but said she is confident due to her success during the indoor season. She’s finished in the top five a total of 11 times in the long jump, 200, and 60.

Williams said she hopes to compete in the same three events outdoors, saying she’s confident she can compete in any element.

The outdoor season for both teams will conclude May 13 at the Outdoor Championships in Kalamazoo.