Despite sending only 15 athletes to the Washington University Invitational, the Webster University track and field teams set several school records. The meet was a two-day event on March 30 and 31 at WashU, and a variety of schools from the NAIA and Division I, II and III attended.
For the men’s team, freshman Zachary Zurfluh-Cunningham improved his time in the 100- and 200-meter dashes as he broke his own Webster records. He finished 33rd in the 100 with a time of 11.58 seconds and 27th in the 200 with a time of 22.94 seconds.
Zurfluh-Cunningham knew the WashU Invitational would be a competitive meet.
“It was a little nerve-racking and overwhelming, especially since I was recovering from a minor knee injury that kept me from practicing most of the week prior,” Zurfluh-Cunningham said. “I’ve never competed at a meet even half that size, and with schools raging from DI to NAIA, the competition was vastly stronger.
“However, I’ve competed against runners comparable to the top runners at this meet before, so I wasn’t intimidated.”
Junior Aaron Oberneufemann finished 15th out of 60 runners in the 400-meter dash with a time of 50.74 seconds, which beat his own school record. Freshman Jason Hickson and sophomore Austin Duncan competed in the 5,000-meter run. Hickson ran the event in 16 minutes, 38.58 seconds, breaking the previous school record of 16:39.28.
Senior Gretchen Rieger led the women’s team. Rieger came in fifth out of 42 in the javelin throw with a toss of 34.52 meters. Last week, Rieger came in first in the same event at the Rhodes College Invitational in Memphis, Tenn.
“My coach and I worked on technique that he noticed I needed improvement on from my first meet,” Rieger said. “We tried to focus on what we worked on at practice at the meet. This meet had great competition. I improved my throw from my first meet so I am headed in the right direction and happy with that.”
Coach Dusty Lopez thinks it’s difficult for javelin throwers to get into a rhythm.
“Gretchen always has the ability in the javelin event,” Lopez said. “She had a fairly decent series at WashU. One thing is tough for the javelin kids is that the track events interfere with the javelin runway, and so the javelin throwers have to often stand around for long periods of time while the track events are going on — they jump on the track and they have 20 seconds to throw.
“She threw pretty well; it was a season-best, so we’re pleased she improved from last week. But I think she has more potential. We’re just trying to train her up to make sure it comes out at the right time.”
Other notable athletes for Webster included freshman Jenny Howard, who finished 13th in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.68 seconds. Senior Tyeila Gant also ran in the 100-meter dash and completed the race in 13.45 seconds, which placed her 35th.
Gant participated in three events at WashU: the 100-meter dash, the high jump and the long jump. She finished 20th in both the high jump and the long jump.
In the 1,500-meter run, sophomores Eroica Stackhouse and Julie Greenough, and freshman Kassandra Ochoa all finished in the top 65 with times under six minutes.
“Overall, it was a very competitive meet for us,” Lopez said. “We had a few bright spots and a few lesser performances. We’re pretty pleased — we set a few more records and placed high in some of the events, so that was good.”
Though the WashU Invitational will be the only two-day event of the season for the Gorloks, Lopez said fatigue was not a factor.
“We only had one of our kids compete on both days, and the rest competed either on Friday or Saturday,” Lopez said. “It’s a local meet. The players got to sleep in their own beds and it was also a short drive to the track.”
The Webster men’s and women’s track and field teams’ next meet is the Washington University Select on April 7.