Track, field ready to compete against 9 schools at Iowa meet

Karina+Delgado+%7C+The+Daily+Eastern+News%0AJeremy+Bekkouche+%28left%29+and+Marcus+Skinner+%28right%29+run+next+to+each+other+during+the+men%E2%80%99s+1+mile+run+in+the+EIU+John+Craft+Invite+Jan.+18+in+the+Lantz+Fieldhouse.

The Daily Eastern News

Karina Delgado | The Daily Eastern News Jeremy Bekkouche (left) and Marcus Skinner (right) run next to each other during the men’s 1 mile run in the EIU John Craft Invite Jan. 18 in the Lantz Fieldhouse.

Oscar Rzodkiewicz, Assistant Sports Editor

The two-day Iowa Black and Gold Premier begins for the Eastern men’s and women’s track and field teams starting Friday at 1 p.m.

Both teams are starting to find some traction, as this marks the fourth scheduled invite of the indoor season and third of the new year.

Last time out at the Illinois Invite, four different Panthers took home a first-place finish, with three coming from the men’s team and one from the women’s.

Dustin Hatfield placed first in the 3000-meters with a personal best time of 8 minutes, 34.25 seconds, Adam Swanson did the same in the 800-meters with a 1:55.97 and Nick Oakley was the last of the men to take first with a time of 4:17.68 in the one-mile.

Hatfield and Swanson’s time rank them second in the Ohio Valley Conference, and Oakley’s ranks him third.

On the women’s side, Danielle Frank won the 200-meters, but she also moved up to eighth in the history of Eastern with a 7.67 time in the 60-meters, which placed fourth at the Illinois invite.

With the OVC Championships under a month away in indoor season, junior Avani Flanagan says the team is just taking the time to get better step-by-step.

“Whether it’s shedding seconds off your race time, improving handoffs, getting out of the blocks quicker, throwing further or jumping higher, there’s always some type of work to be done which will increase our chances of performing well at conference,” Flanagan said. “I’d say that’s everyone’s goal: Just keep improving and reaching the best we can be.”

Eastern currently has 14 top-three conference times, marks or points in 12 different individual events, as well as first in the men’s 4×400 relay, the men’s distance medley relay and the women’s distance medley relay.

The Panthers show strengths in a lot of different areas, and Flanagan says the team’s multifaceted nature of the athletes is important too.

“Luckily, it’s not too often that there’s a limit of people you can enter per event. That gives us all a chance to mix it up and race different races and see which ones are each of our strong suits,” Flanagan said.

She added that the coaches do a great job of mixing things up for the track athletes, which, she said, gives the athletes the opportunity to compete well in a multitude of events.

Flanagan said this gives the team great depth.

No other OVC schools will be competing at the event, but the list of competition includes: Barton College, Bradley, Drake, Iowa Western, Loyola, Marquette, Minnesota State, Northern Iowa and Tulsa.

Day one begins with women’s weights followed by men’s weights, and Saturday’s events kick off at 11 a.m. with the shot put, with the running events to start at 2:30 p.m.

After this weekend, Eastern stays on the road as the Panthers head to South Bend, Indiana for the Notre Dame Meyo Invite on Feb. 7 and 8.

Oscar Rzodkiewicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]