Friday, Jan. 31, and Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Penn State National Open in State College, Pennsylvania, William and Mary rose to the challenge away from Williamsburg, racking up numerous top honors, including two new school records.
Entering the meet, the College came off an impressive showing last weekend at the Patriot Games in Fairfax, Virginia. In that meet, the College racked up four event wins and nine postseason qualifying marks. This meet would look a tad different however, with the Tribe sending an abbreviated team of mostly distance runners along with a few field athletes and 400-meter runners. With the indoor season still in its early stages, the track and field teams look poised for a breakout year, with impressive performances across the board.
Starting things off Friday evening for the Tribe, the pole-vaulting trio of junior Taylor E. Jones, senior Lauren Graves and senior Sophie Caplan finished sixth, seventh and 11th, with respective heights of 3.52, 3.52 and 3.37 meters. Caplan’s mark of 3.37 meters was a new lifetime best in the event. Also, in the field events, senior Alexis Brender a Brandis continued her impressive season thus far in the triple jump with a leap of 11.59 meters, which is a new indoor lifetime best and a major improvement upon last week’s performance at the Patriot Games. The hometown senior from Williamsburg also competed in the long jump.
Saturday, the Tribe women really started to shine, beginning with the 400-meter dash. Freshman Carly Swierbut, who set a freshman school record at the Patriot Games, again impressed, shaving nearly 1.5 seconds off the record set last weekend. The rookie won the race in a blazing time of 56.28, improving on her 57.59-second clocking. Junior Victoria Gersch impressed yet again, placing second just behind Swierbut in 56.42. Swierbut still sits behind Gersch in the overall school rankings, as Gersch currently holds the indoor school record at 55.95 seconds. Junior Taylor D. Jones shaved two seconds off her lifetime best in the 800-meter run, placing seventh overall in a time of 2:13.35. Also improving on her lifetime best was senior Liv Paxton, who ran 9:49.59 to place fifth in the 3,000-meter run. In the first section of the women’s 4×400 meter relay, the relay team of Swierbut, Susanna Maisto, Gabriel Runge and Gersch won in a time of 3:47.95.
On the men’s side on Friday, junior all-American KJ Cook recorded an impressive heave of 18.73 meters in the men’s weight throw, placing 10th. Cook would also go on to place eighth in the shot put on Saturday, just behind junior Connor Scott. Sophomore Troy Yearwood finished four spots behind Cook in 14th with a brand-new lifetime best of 18.22 meters, improving on his mark last week of 18.05 meters. Scott finished just off of his lifetime best in the shot put, with a mark of 15.58 meters. In the distance medley relay, the team of senior Cooper Leslie, junior Colin Grip, senior Chris Short and junior Evan Goodell placed third overall with a time of 10:02.16, qualifying the College for postseason competition later this winter.
Just like the women’s team, the College gained momentum early Saturday with top performances in the 400-meter dash. Junior Theo Chambers ran 49.36 to finish fourth overall, placing second in heat two. In the 600-meter run, Grip recorded the performance of the day for the College, with a new school record time of 1:21.41 to place fourth. The distance runners for the Tribe again impressed in the first section of the mile, where sophomore Patrick Lynch ran 4:16.09 to finish third overall, improving on his time in the same event last weekend by a 10th of a second. But the top marks did not stop there. Goodell continued his strong showing in the first section of the 3,000-meter run, winning the race in 8:24.69, an improvement of his personal best by over eight seconds. Sophomore Spencer Tsai also finished in the top 10, placing 10th overall in 8:30.10. In the invitational section, Tribe frontrunner JP Trojan finished sixth overall in 8:17.99, improving his lifetime best drastically as well. That meant that all three Tribe runners in the event recorded drastic lifetime bests this early in the season. Last year’s Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America champion in the 800-meter run was back in action Saturday as well, as senior Chris Short ran 1:51.89 to finish sixth in the invitational section of the race and will look to use this meet as a momentum boost for later competitions.
Both teams will look to continue their respective strong seasons next weekend, again in State College, as Penn State hosts the Sykes-Sabock Challenge Cup on Friday and Saturday. After that, love is sure to be in the air in Lexington, Virginia as the Tribe heads to the VMI Indoor Classic for an in-state showdown Valentine’s Day.