Track teams tackle inaugural Billiken Invitational

Webster University junior Aaron Oberneufemann competes in the 4x400-meter relay at the Billiken Invitational on April 14. PHOTO BY DAVID NASH.

Senior Gretchen Rieger’s first-place throw in the javelin event highlighted a strong meet for the Webster University track and field teams at the inaugural Billiken Invitational. Saint Louis University hosted the meet on April 13 and 14.

Rieger’s toss of 37.85 meters placed her first in a field of 12 other competitors, who hailed from Division I and III schools. Rieger said she felt calmer this time compared to other meets.

“My first throw was my best throw; it was my second-best throw of my career,” Rieger said. “I was more relaxed. When I start thinking about my throws, I don’t throw as far. So, usually, my first throw is sometimes my best throw because I don’t have time to think about everything. I just go out there and do the best I can.”

Coach Dusty Lopez said it was nice to see Rieger compete on her opening throw of the day. Rieger holds the facility record since it was the first-ever meet at SLU.

“Gretchen threw extremely well,” Lopez said. “She did it on her first throw, which was great because she kind of took pressure off herself for the rest of the competition. Also, she got a little bit of the monkey off her back in terms of the fact that she hadn’t set a personal record since last season. Now she’s got one that’s fresh, and it can reinforce the fact that she is making progress.”

Lopez said tough competition — as the Gorloks faced in the Billiken Invitational — will help them in the long run.

“I think that because it’s local, it makes things run smoother,” Lopez said. “(There is) less pressure for the kids to get themselves to the meet, there is no long bus ride — competing here at SLU against schools we know pretty well. Even though the day wasn’t great because of the weather conditions — when the rain stopped it got pretty warm and humid — it all translated into a pretty good meet for us.”

Other notable performers for the women’s track team included sophomore Eroica Stackhouse, who came in 13th place out of 27 in the 5,000-meter run. Her time of 19 minutes, 37.39 seconds broke a school record previously set by Stackhouse. Finishing behind Stackhouse in the 5,000-meter run was sophomore Heather Heisse, who completed the event in 20:23.14.

Sophomore Julie Greenough competed in two events. She completed the 800-meter run in 2:37.95 and the 1,500-meter run in 5:27.27.

The men’s track team had a decent day despite the weather conditions. Freshman Zachary Zurfluh-Cunningham ran in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. He came in 10thout of 20 in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.51 seconds. He also placed 10th in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.24 seconds.

Zurfluh-Cunningham said he could have competed at a higher level.

“I could have done much better; I wasn’t mentally prepared this week, and the last place I felt I should be was at a meet,” Zurfluh-Cunningham said. “I just need to keep my head in the right spot for the next week and hope to get some good weather.”

Lopez said the Billiken Invitational was a nice step for the Gorloks as they prepare for the final three meets of the season.

“We took a nice step back in a positive direction this weekend,” Lopez said. “We sort of had a little bit of a lackluster meet the week before at WashU. It was really nice to see us get back to the path of improving and setting new records and bests.

“I expect to see more of that now that we sort of turned back in the right direction, and I think we are going to continue moving in the right direction, especially with two really good meets coming up in the next two weeks. We’re going to have tons of opportunities for good competition and improvement for the next couple of weeks.”

Next up for the men’s and women’s track teams is the April 20 Rose-Hulman “Twilight Meet” in Terre Haute, Ind. The Gorloks will then compete in the Illinois College True Blue Open on April 28 in Jacksonville, Ill.

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