The Webster University men’s and women’s track and field teams will begin their outdoor seasons with what coach Kelly Parsley said has never happened before at Webster.
Parsley expects to have the largest teams in school history, mainly due to his efforts incorporating multi-sport athletes.
“There’s been a different mentality than in years past,” Parsley said. “Kids are talking about it now and are more excited.”
The Gorloks come off an indoor track and field season that had 18 new records set between the men’s and women’s teams. Many of the records were broken multiple times by the same athlete. A majority of the top five scores in almost all Webster records were set this past winter.
Parsley said he expects Webster’s teams to break a school record in every outdoor event the Gorloks have a competitor. Sophomore Jenny Howard — who in the indoor season became the first Webster runner to win first place in an event in back-to-back weeks — said she agrees with her coach.
“I think that we continue to (break all the records) for outdoor,” Howard said. “That will translate into doing well in conference as well.”
The Webster track and field programs are only in their fourth year, and Parsley said he realizes they are breaking all these records because most of them were not as fast compared to athletes at other schools.
“But to me they are a big deal,” Parsley said. “And now our records are more competitive in our conference and even the region.”
Parsley said making the record-breaking a big deal has also contributed to the assembly of multi-sport athletes to his team. Along with Howard, the Webster volleyball team has four players double-dipping their Gorlok talents. Freshman Lauren Hoover, who is a defensive specialist on the volleyball team, wasn’t expecting to run the 400-meter run coming into the season. She now holds the indoor record with a time of 1:05.99 — less than two seconds slower than the outdoor record.
Sophomore Kristen McDowell, right side hitter for volleyball, already held the Webster record in the indoor high jump. Her outdoor best is less than three inches short of the school record.
Hoover and Howard both agreed participating in two sports can give them an advantage in areas of both games.
“I’m competitive all year round,” Hoover said. “I don’t come into track season having to make myself be competitive because I’ve been competitive since I started volleyball.”
Sophomore Brian Woodward is the goalie that took the Webster men’s soccer team to the first round of the D-III NCAA Tournament this season. He also ran for the men’s track team and was the squad’s long jumper in the indoor season.
“(Woodward) really helped us indoor,” Parsley said. “He ran some really fast times, almost as if he had been running track his whole life. It was amazing how well he did.”
There are some two-sport athletes that Parsley has yet to see run, but expects great things. He said women’s basketball players junior Kaliann Rikard and freshman Mia Williams will join the track and field team along with senior Roman Robinson and sophomore DeVon Haynes from the men’s basketball team.
Robinson said he and Parsley are still talking, but he has not yet made a final decision about participating in track and field.
Parsley believes his team is becoming more competitive in the SLIAC with the addition of more athletes. He said Greenville College (Ill.) is always the Gorloks’ toughest opponent, mostly due to the large size of its team.
“Until we’re able to field every event, we’re going to struggle,” Parsley said. “But as a team, we can compete with any team in the conference because we are probably the second-biggest team.”
Senior Daniel Henkey said the depth this team has makes scoring points in conference events much easier.
“We’re going to try to hit all fronts of the track and field events more thoroughly,” Henkey said. “More people are competing in more events, and we’ll have guys competing in three different events at one meet, and that gives us a chance to be more competitive.”
The first outdoor meet for Webster is the CMU Open at Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo., on March 16. Parsley said the meet is mainly for NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) schools, but he likes to put his team up against tougher competition a few times a year. He said he expects the current outdoor records to begin falling at that first meet.