Track and field teams have strong showing at meet

Webster Track and Field
BLAKE TOULOU / The Journal
Sophomore Aaron Oberneufemann leaps over a hurdle during practice at Hixson Middle School on March 22. Oberneufemann finished fifth out of 12 in the 400-meter run and tenth out of 23 in the 200-meter run at the Rose-Hulman Early Bird meet on March 19.

Aided by junior Gretchen Rieger’s sensational performance in the javelin throw, the Webster University track and field program opened the season on a high note at the Rose-Hulman Early Bird meet on March 19. Rieger won her event and set a school record with a throw of 38.94 meters. It was an outstanding day for the Gorloks, as several athletes either broke school records or had personal bests. Team scores were not counted at the meet.
“My first throw was my best so I was very excited,” Rieger said. “I was not expecting this at all, especially in the first meet.”
Rieger broke the school record by almost 40 feet. She is just 31 centimeters off provisional qualifying for the NCAA Division III nationals, which would place her as one of the top throwers in the country.
“Gretchen’s performance was more than a win, more than a school record; it was a
tremendous milestone for the team,” said track and field coach Dusty Lopez. “We knew Gretchen was a talented thrower, but she really put a good throw together and it was great to see.”
Several additional women shined at the meet. Competing in her first collegiate meet, sophomore Tori Fenemor came in third place in the shot put with a distance of 9.97 meters. Fenemor had not competed in track and field since high school. Fenemor also plays for Webster’s women’s basketball team, and she had only five days of practice to prepare for her first meet in three years.
“I thought I would give it a try to stay in shape for basketball,” Fenemor said. “I was very surprised I did that well, but I did have a distance of 38 feet (11.58 meters) in high school.”
The men were led by sophomore Daniel Henkey, who broke a school record in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:05.04. He finished seventh out of 18 runners despite having to deal with shin splints, which has limited his training.
“I really didn’t expect to break the record,” Henkey said. “Coach had a plan for me to be more aggressive. I ran even splits and it felt good.”
Freshman Eroica Stackhouse shattered yet another Gorlok record, as she finished third in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 19:53.53. Sophomores Aaron Oberneufemann (400-meter run) and Blake Harris (1,500-meter run) and freshmen Alex Schoenstein (5,000-meter run) and Stephanie Ripperda (1,500-meter run) performed well for Webster as well.
“I’m very happy with the way most of our kids opened up,” Lopez said. “Instead of showing rust or inexperience, we had several performances that really showed individual progress, which almost never happens this early in the season.”
Lopez expects to see tough competition when his teams go up against St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference teams.
“We haven’t seen much from the conference yet, but I expect us to compete very well,” Lopez said. “There are some strong track programs in the SLIAC. Track is by far the strongest conference sport on the national scene; Greenville and Principia routinely produce All-Americans. That sets a high bar for us to reach, but we did very well last year with a smaller, less experienced group, so we want to tangle with those squads as tough as we can.”
Lopez has his largest team ever. Fifteen athletes competed at Rose-Hulman.
“We can cover more events and score more points,” Lopez said. “On an individual basis, we have several athletes who were among the best in the conference in their events last year. We want to keep moving up those performance lists. The signs are good that we will be able to do that.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams travel to Memphis, Tennessee, for the Rhodes College Open on March 26 and will compete in the WashU Invitational April 1-2.

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