North lone victor at EIU Big Blue Invite

Samira Kassem

Senior Katie North’s victory in the women’s 5000 meter run was the only Titan first-place finish of the day.
Photo: illinoiswesleyanxctf via Instagram

The men’s and women’s track and field teams made their way to Charleston Ill. last Saturday, April 9 for Eastern Illinois University’s Big Blue Invite. 

Out of the 11 teams present, the Titans were one of only three Division III schools competing on the men’s side and two competing on the women’s side. 

“When the gun goes off or when you step on the runway, the division doesn’t matter; you control what you can control and just compete,” head coach Chris Schumacher said of the heightened competition. 

Although the women’s team placed fifth and the men’s team placed eighth, Schumacher says that there were several season and personal bests which, according to him, is the main goal each week. 

On the women’s side, sophomore Addison Bendery clocked the fastest 200 meter time so far this season in all of Division III (24.72) although it placed her third at the meet. Bendery came back later in the day and posted another third place finish in the 100 meter dash (12.09) which is good enough for a third place ranking in all of Division III. 

“It felt really good to be able to hold my own against these teams and programs just because I feel like during the warm-up we got a lot of looks like ‘who are you guys why are you here’” Bendery said. “It felt good to be able to go up against these Division I schools and prove to them that just because we’re Division III doesn’t mean we can’t compete.” 

The highlight of the day was senior Katie North’s first place finish in the 5000 meter run. North crossed the finish line in 17:39.65, edging out Eastern Illinois’ Avani Flanagan (17.39.93) in a final push on the home stretch.

North’s season best finish currently has her at number 12 in Division III according to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA)

In another notable finish on the women’s side, sophomore Rebekah Harden who finished fourth in the 800 meter run (2:17.78) which is good enough to place her in the top 20 on the USTFCCCA list. 

In the 400 meter hurdles, seniors Cora Wilkinson and Kelsey Wyman went four and five in 1:04.84 and 1:04.88, respectively.  

In the 4×100 meter relay, the team of Wyman, Smith, Helferich and Bendery took the runner-up position (48.98), finishing just behind Miami of Ohio and edging out Eastern Illinois by less than two tenths of a second. The relay is currently ranked in the top 15 in all of Division III. 

“It was a great opportunity to be able to compete against a higher level of competition because I think that a lot of people were really pushed to perform at a higher level” Bendery said. 

In the throws, senior Ayana Blair took fourth in the shotput (12.67m) and fifth in the hammer (46.21m). 

The triple jumpers also had a successful day with Kinlee Miller and Camryn Winterland taking fourth and fifth, respectively. 

According to the USTFCCCA rankings, the women’s team stands at number 13 of all Division III teams. 

Senior Jake Mahaffey placed fifth in the men’s high jump.
Photo: illinoiswesleyanxctf via Instagram

On the men’s side, senior thrower Zach Anderson took sixth in both the hammer (50.94m) and shotput (15.60m). The former All-American is currently number five on the USTFCCCA Division III rankings for shotput. 

Also for the men, senior Jake Mahaffey claimed third place in the high jump clearing 1.87m while sophomore Drew Tatlock placed fifth with a jump of 1.80 meters. Mahaffey also claimed the fifth place spot in the triple jump (13.27m). 

The Titans will head to Rock Island Ill. next where they will compete at the Augustana Invite on Saturday, April 17. 

“We have been fortunate with the weather thus far. This weekend looks like it might be colder but we are ready to layer up and be mentally prepared to get after it” Schumacher said.