Valpo Track and Field took advantage of their opportunities in the program’s only home meet of the year. The April 30 meet saw Valpo athletes hit numerous career-best marks and finish at the top in several events against competition from the University of Illinois-Chicago, Milwaukee and Calumet College of St. Joseph.
It was a successful meet for senior thrower Alek Trafton, who hit a new personal record (PR) in the hammer throw of 55.07 meters. His new PR was good for first place in the men’s hammer throw and catapulted him to fourth in program history in the event.
The women’s throwers also found similar success. Sophomore Tori Gerhardt, sophomore Lena Luebbering and senior Michelle Pierce all posted personal bests in the women’s hammer throw.
Pierce’s 46.25 meter hammer throw was good for third place in the event. The senior also posted a PR in shot put at 12.26 meters.
“It felt great, 12 meters [in hammer throw] has been a goal of mine for four plus years. I’m finally hitting over that which is great and having my family there was even more special,” Pierce said. “Even the team, we saw some really good stuff so I think we’re setting up great for conference and I’m excited to see what everyone does.”
Head track and field coach Ryan Moore was proud of how his throwers performed.
“These guys work so hard and to be able to come home and perform that way on your home turf against a group that we’re really familiar with in Milwaukee, that’s fantastic. I’m thrilled with the performances today,” Moore said.
Over at Warren G. Hoger track, the runners also found similar success in their events.
In the men’s 1500 meter run, Valpo senior distance runner Ignacio Veloz Bonilla took first place with a time of 3:57.11. In a tight race, Veloz Bonilla was happy with his time and hopes to continue his momentum into the upcoming Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) championships.
“I raced smart, got behind the leader and had the kick at the end to win the race,” Bonilla said. “Last year my PR was 3:55, so I’m building up to get there for conference. We’ll see what happens…hopefully I can get some PRs there and get to the finals.”
Another Valpo win came in the men’s pole vault, where sophomore pole vaulter Tristan Malatlian cleared 4.45 meters in tough conditions.
“When you have a big crosswind and rain like today it makes the pole rather slippery so it makes it kind of hard to counter in the middle of your run, so it’s decent for what it is,” Malatlian said. “This year has been a good one for me, I’m just happy I cleared a bar and could take the win for the home meet considering all the bad conditions today.”
Valpo’s mid-distance runners posted strong races in both the men’s and women’s 800 meter run. On the women’s side, senior Maranda Donahue finished as the runner-up with a time of 2:22.59. Freshman Ja’Xon Sibley placed fourth in the men’s 800 while posting a personal best time of 1:58.59.
“I started this year with a slow kick at the end, so I’ve been working on that last 200 to pick it up and stay strong,” Sibley said. “I’ve been stuck above two [minutes] for the past two years…now that I broke it I’m looking forward to making even better PRs.”
Freshman Nehemiah Ray finished fourth place in the men’s 100m dash, hitting a time of 10.78. The freshman was grateful to compete at home for the first time in his career.
“I’ve been looking forward to this meet all year and I’ve been telling everybody to come out. I’m always glad to rep the home team,” Ray said.
Ray would later take first place in the men’s 200 meter dash, clocking in at 21.85 seconds. Ray would also help one of Valpo’s men’s 4x400 meter relay teams to a season-best time of 3:31.03.
The next time Valpo Track and Field competes will be at the MVC Outdoor Championships. The meet will be held May 13-15 at Drake University in Des Moines, Ia.
Moore hopes his team will be able to build off of momentum from their successful performance at home as they head into the most important outdoor meet of the season.
“There’s some big things to come, we’re two weeks away from the conference championships and I think we’re starting to peak at the right time,” Moore said. “I’m excited to see everything coming together and looking forward to what comes next.”