The Webster University men’s and women’s track and field teams began their seasons at the Illinois College Snowbird Open indoor meet on Jan. 21, but much of the team didn’t make the trip. For track and field coach Dusty Lopez, the meet wasn’t a very high priority.
“We had a couple people who were banged up we didn’t send,” Lopez said. “We had a couple others who had outside commitments. There were a lot of people who didn’t make the trip at all, and for the ones who did it was really just a glorified workout.”
Webster had eight athletes participate in the meet. Five freshmen saw their first collegiate track and field action, including Jason Hickson and Kassandra Ochoa. Hickson finished 12th out of 18 runners in the one-mile run with a time of 5 minutes, 12.81 seconds. Ochoa finished 13th out of 19 runners in the one-mile run with a time of 6:33.05.
Like several other members of the team, some freshmen are competing in track and field in the offseason of another sport they play at Webster.
“We’ve had really good fortune in having athletes from other teams come out and decide to do track, which is awesome,” said Lopez, who also coaches Webster’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams in the fall. “We love the multisport athletes.”
For the women, freshmen Ochoa and Jennifer Scanlon, sophomores Julie Greenough, Heather Heisse, Eroica Stackhouse and junior Jane McKibben join the track team after participating in cross-country this past fall.
Five of the seven athletes listed on the men’s track team’s roster were also cross-country runners this past fall – Hickson, juniors Daniel Henkey, David Koppelmann and Aaron Oberneufemann and senior Tony Morales.
Unlike the men’s team, the women’s track team also has several two-sport athletes who didn’t run cross-country. The volleyball team sends four athletes to the track team: freshmen Jenny Howard, Kristen McDowell and Jordan Vehlewald and senior Gretchen Rieger.
The women’s basketball team sends junior Tori Fenemor and seniors Amanda Arcangel and Tyeila Gant.
The six freshmen on the women’s team and the two freshmen on the men’s team will help both squads as returning athletes like Henkey and McKibben look to improve on great seasons a year ago.
“I got sick over break, so this last week I was getting back in shape and that’s why I didn’t participate at the meet,” Henkey said. “As soon as I got better, I’ve been training since then.”
Lopez has high hopes for Henkey after his breakout year last season.
“(He) really kind of broke through as a sophomore and ran some pretty good times,” Lopez said. “He holds a couple of school records already. The big question mark with him is can we keep him healthy. If we can, he should continue to improve and set new marks.”
The whole team will try to keep themselves healthy as well.
“Our main focus this year is to try to maintain healthy shape,” McKibben said. “As a team, we’re really connected with each other. We tend to have a lot of good training.”
In the fourth year of the track and field program, the men look to improve on back-to-back third place finishes while the women will try to improve on their back-to-back second place finishes in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference invitational for outdoor track and field.
“The women will continue to be competitive at the top of the conference the way they were the last two years,” Lopez said. “It’s no guarantee, but I think we’ll be right at the same level if everybody stays healthy.”
The men’s and women’s track and field teams will participate in the Principia College Indoor Relays on Jan. 27 before ending the indoor season with meets at Illinois College on Feb. 4 and 17.