Young track team looks for success

The men’s and women’s track and field team at Northern Kentucky University consists of mostly freshman and sophomores, but they are quickly gaining experience.

The track and field team is sponsored by NKU Athletics, but it is not funded by the athletic department. The team is made up mostly of athletes from the cross country team.

Head coach Steve Kruse says this allows the team to improve for the fall. He added that it allows the cross country team to stay competitive against Great Lakes Valley Conference teams. All of their conference foes offer track and field and cross country.

“It exists primarily for the cross country team so we can remain competing in the off season and stay up with the competitiveness,” Kruse said.

The team is very young this year, as both the men’s and women’s team has only one senior each. Kruse’s goal for the team is to gain experience through competition.

“For distance squad, it is improving and gaining confidence and maturity in sport,” Kruse said.

The team has had some individual success this year. In the Mount St. Joseph’s Lions Invitational on March 25, two Norse won events and both were named the GLVC Outdoor Track Athlete of the Week. Brendan Chwalek, a sophomore transfer from Nova Southeastern, won the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.

“He is coming on strong,” Kruse said. “He is really having a breakout season.”

Senior Alisha Hansman won the same event on the women’s side. This being the first time she has competed in the event this year, Hansman sees areas where she can improve and also has big goals for the rest of the year.

“I would like to improve on my time in the steeplechase and the way I jump over the water pit,” Hansman said. “I would really like to have the school record in steeplechase and I would like to be an all-conference runner.”

Kruse would like to see Chwalek and Hansman qualify for the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships in Turlock, Calif., held from May 26-28. Only around 15-20 athletes from the conference are selected to compete in nationals, so it will not be easy for them to advance.

“We have a lot of work ahead,” Kruse said. “They will need to train smart to stay on track for consideration.”

To compete, the Norse have to achieve the minimum number of athletes on a team required by the NCAA. Athletes from sports other than track have come out to be part of the team.

Frances Schultz, a volleyball player, is a thrower (shot put, discus throw and javelin) for the team. In the shot put, she set an NKU record this year. Schultz continues to try to improve on her technique in each event.

“Throwing does have a lot to do with strength; but at the end of the day, it comes down to technique,” Schultz said. “My technique now is decent at best, so fine tuning is what I am trying to improve on at practice.”

In order to be able to field a team that can compete in every event, the team would need to be funded by the athletic department, something Kruse hopes to happen in the future. Without the funding, it is impossible to recruit for events such as jumpers, sprinters and throwers.

“I’ve been pulling for that since I was a student-athlete,” Kruse said. “Interest is an all-time high on campus, and there are great hopes to add track and field, so we can recruit for field events and sprints.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams next event will be the Cumberlands Invitational April 9 in Williamsburg, Ky.

Story by John Minor