Track and field begin outdoor season in Kentucky

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The SVSU track and field teams headed to Kentucky over the weekend to compete at the Bellarmine Invitational hosted by Bellarmine University.

The meet marked the first major outdoor meet for SVSU this year, with both the men and women trying to improve off a solid indoor season. The meet began on Saturday and concluded late in the afternoon on Sunday.

The men had impressive performances, with Jullane Walker taking home second place in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.68 seconds. Freshman Jordan Walters hauled in fourth place in the 400-meter dash at 50.32 seconds and ran into first place in the 800-meter dash. The Cardinals also dominated in the 5,000-meter dash, where Eddie Komph, Joey Southgate and Timmy Kimball took first through third place. Codey Cook, another freshman, finished in second place for the 3,000-meter steeple.

SVSU’s men also snagged second place in the 4×400-meter relay. Sam Black jumped into second place in the high jump, while Jacob Kulhanek took third in pole vault. Sophomore Ryan Kelly finished second in shotput throwing 15.42 meters. In javelin, Joe Thwing had a throw of 45.62 meters, which was good enough for first place.

Southgate, a leader in middle and long distance, had good things to say about his team and especially the younger competitors.

“A lot of the guys are trying to step into new roles,” he said. “We don’t get to do that very often; it’s pretty difficult. They’re very young, but I feel they did well.”

Southgate also explained how the runners are on track to post fine times by the end of the season. He also explained the difficulty with competing at a windy outdoor meet.

“That’s probably the worst thing to run in,” he said. “A little wind makes running very, very difficult on the track.”

The women also had high finishes in their events, with team leaders stepping up and performing well. Senior runner Kimberly Balls finished third in the 400-meter dash, while Brittany Johnson took home third in the 800-meter run. Morgan Fuerst and Johnson had second and third place finishes in the 1,500-meter run. First place, however, went to Taylor Stepanski, who dominated and took home gold with a time of 4:41.80. The ladies also had a strong second-place finish in the 4×400-meter run and the triple jump, where team leader Anna Fochesato also grabbed second place at 11.27 meters.

Darby Meinecke, who finished second in the 10,000-meter run in her first meet back since a torn ACL, was excited and proud of her team’s performance.

“We had a great meet,” the sophomore said. “It’s nice to finally get that first one out of the way and shake some of the nerves.”

For the runners, the transition from indoors to outdoors can be interesting as well.

“Our coach has been transitioning us to outdoor workouts in order to get used to the 400-meter feeling again,” Meinecke said.

The women had the same issues with wind as the men, but Meinecke was happy with how her team handled it.

“It was also pretty windy all weekend, but overall, I think everybody handled their transition very well,” she said.

Meinecke is excited for her team this year as well, expecting big things and having plenty of confidence in the girls.

“We have a team full of energy and drive this year,” Meinecke said. “I think everyone is pretty excited for this season, so that motivation alone will put up some great times.”

Southgate also had good things to say about the season and future of Saginaw Valley’s program, especially with the less experienced athletes that assistant coach Jason Hartmann has brought in.

“With this being (Hartmann’s) third year here, some of the guys he brought in are no longer redshirted,” Southgate said. “What we’re looking from them is have some of these younger guys stepping up and scoring in GLIAC and conference meets. We’re on the verge of doing that.”

The teams head to Kentucky again next weekend to compete at the WKU Hilltopper Relays. The teams compete in Michigan on April 14 at the Hillsdale Border Battle, where they hope to put up good times against fellow GLIAC members.