In her first collegiate meet, freshman Jenny Howard shook off her nerves and broke two Webster University track records. Howard was one of the Gorloks’ standout performers at the Principia College Indoor Relays on Jan. 27 in Elsah, Ill.
“It was definitely nerve-racking because I didn’t know what to expect,” Howard said. “But once I ran my first race, all the nerves went away.”
Howard’s first race was the 60-meter dash, and she finished second of 15 runners with a time of 8.13 seconds. She bested Webster’s previous 60-meter record by 0.84 seconds.
In her second and final race, Howard finished third in a field of 10 runners in the 300-meter dash with a time of 47.1 seconds, which also set a new Webster record.
Howard is one of six freshmen on a women’s team that has 15 athletes on its roster. The men’s team has two freshmen on its seven-man roster. Once again, track and field coach Dusty Lopez expects these freshmen to play a big role this season.
“They are crucial every year,” Lopez said. “I feel like I’m saying that over and over every season, but with the group the size that we’ve got — the turnover — we always are made up heavily of young kids. We’re going to count on them all year. We’re finally to the point where we’re not counting on just freshmen, which is a nice difference from in the past.”
For the men’s team, freshman Zachary Zurfluh-Cunningham and junior Aaron Oberneufemann had solid performances. Zurfluh-Cunningham finished 10th out of 27 runners in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.54, which broke Webster’s record.
Oberneufemann got second out of 12 runners in the 300-meter dash with a time of 37.45, also a Webster record. Oberneufemann teamed up with Zurfluh-Cunningham and juniors David Koppelmann and Daniel Henkey to break Webster’s record in the sprint medley.
Oberneufemann said he has talked to basketball players, who are still in-season, about joining the track and field team once basketball season ends.
“We’re definitely improving — I feel like our team is growing a lot stronger,” Oberneufemann said. “We’re getting up to that level where we can compete with other teams, but we’re not quite there to where we can win. (We’re) short on a few people, but we still have more people coming out after basketball season, making us a little bit stronger and hopefully giving other teams a little better competition.”
Besides Howard, other notable performers for the women included sophomore Eroica Stackhouse, who finished third in the one-mile run. Freshman Jordan Vehlewald, who teamed up with Howard on Webster’s volleyball team, finished eighth in the 500-meter dash.
Howard said her transition from volleyball season to sprinting for the track team has been “different,” though she said the explosive movements in both sports are similar. Howard is one of several freshmen who hope to build the track and field program — now in its fourth year — over the next several seasons.
“In the long run, we’re going to be the foundation for the program for the next few years,” Howard said. “Even though we are all transitioning, we’re getting to know each other a lot better and we’re all training really hard.
“I think that’s very important because track is an emerging program, so there’s a foundation for the program for the next few years. It’s really important that we all work well together, train hard and set the standards for people next year.”