To say the men’s track and field team faces tough competition might be an understatement, according to Head Coach Aaron Decker. Especially when the first, second, third and fourth place teams in the nation come from the same conference as the Falcons.
The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) had seven teams that placed in the top 20 in the indoor national championships held Feb. 22-23. Decker said the WIAC sends between one-third and one-fifth of the total participants to the national meet.
“It would be hard to find a sport in the WIAC that is tougher, that has won more national titles, and team places than track and field,” Decker said.
However, that hasn’t stopped the Falcons from being competitive because Decker said the Falcons have what many other teams do not: a well rounded, balanced team. Decker said that while some teams like UW-Whitewater specialize in areas such as jumps, the Falcons are competitive across the board.
“We don’t have a niche,” Decker said. “We’re just a complete, young team that gets better every week. This team has an edge. Being in such a competitive conference the kids know they need to step up every weekend we compete. They know that every time there’s a WIAC team, or even a MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) and IIAC (Iowa) team, it is going to be competitive. Every weekend we’re going against the top in the nation. There’s not a week off,” Decker said.
One of the biggest challenges for the Falcons will be to replicate last year’s success, when the Falcons sent a school-record 10 men to outdoor nationals. Five of those men are back for this year’s season.
Decker said that this year he has a young squad and that it is hard to get freshman to nationals, but he said that with a good recruiting class, he sees a bright future ahead for the Falcons.
“Sending freshmen to nationals is tough, but we do have a handful that could make it,” Decker said.“We have what I like to call ‘staying power,’ in that we keep them excited about track and keep them coming back for more.”
While the future looks bright for the Falcons, the approaching outdoor season has Decker excited as well. He noted several personal and school records that were already broken in the indoor season, including a school record by sophomore Alex Jurgenson in the pole vault. Jurgenson vaulted to a height of 15-3 to break the school record, according to the UW-River Falls Athletic website.
Jurgenson said he is excited to see the strong start by his team, but as the outdoor season begins, he has his eyes on a bigger prize.
“I personally would like to hit 16’ in the pole vault, which would put me in a position to hopefully go to nationals,” Jurgenson said.
Senior Benjamin Tykwinski also broke a school record during the indoor season in the weight throw with a throw of 57-11.25 or 17.66 meters.
At the WIAC Indoor Championships, held at UW-Stevens Point, the 4×200 team of Tucker Malecha, Elijah Kelley, Anthony Sumnicht and Tom Thuente had the highest finish for the Falcons as they placed third overall. The relay finished in 1:32.28, only three seconds shy of the UW-Eau Claire team that took first, according to UWRF Sports Information.
Decker said that for the outdoor season, the team’s priority would be to do better in the conference meet and move up a spot or two. The Falcons placed eighth out of the nine teams, beating UW-Superior at the indoor championships.
One way to do that, Decker said, is to build off of school records, and to continue to establish the program in record-setting and personal bests.
Junior Donovan Nelson set a personal best in the St. Olaf Invite on Jan. 26 in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 9.08 seconds. Nelson said he is excited to improve on that mark and to see what that team can accomplish.
“We have a lot of young, talented athletes that have a lot of potential for the upcoming seasons, in addition to some veteran athletes who hope to keep doing great things for Falcon track and field,” Nelson said.
The Falcons’ next meet is a home meet on April 12 and 13.