Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The 2012 MVC Indoor Meet

I'm having trouble being anything but proud of how the Panthers competed this past weekend at the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships. I know I am supposed to be upset about not winning the team titles, but I don't remember having so many moments to celebrate. 


Corey Szamlewski. Less than a year ago I watched a senior pole vaulter from McHenry High School in Illinois compete at the Illinois Prep Top Times meet. There was something special in this kid. He was raw, athletic and fearless. On Friday Corey entered his first MVC meet as a Panther. Coach Bertoli told me Corey was ready to jump high. "Trust me," he said. Corey started the competition with a personal best of 15'7". He cleared 15'9; we cheered. He cleared 16'1"; we screamed.  He cleared 16'5; we went crazy. He cleared 16'9" and we lost our minds knowing we were witnessing something we'd never forget. Four PR's in a row and Corey finished the best MVC Vault competition in history with a 3rd place finish. And a claim on the future. 
Corey's Four(!) Personal Bests

Every so often you get a senior who decides to run down a dream in their last year. Michaela Brungardt has always been talented. But a change has come over her in her final year that has been absolutely thrilling to observe. She quietly put in the extra work last summer. She has quietly moved up the rankings all indoor season and improved her personal best nearly every week. In the finals of the 400m on Saturday, Michaela's gutsy race produced the greatest performance in the history of Northern Iowa. She was better than even she thought she could be. That's one of the greatest things any coach can witness. Michaela followed that performance up with a terrific leg on the best 4x400m relay in UNI history. Does hard work and discipline pay off? I have a very happy senior that knows the answer.

As a freshman in the fall of 2010, sprinter Cam Brown tried out for the UNI track team. He had a thin resume and a bad hamstring. He was told what most athletes are told when they aren't ready to have a meaningful experience in our program; train on your own, get better, and try out again next fall. Most we never see again. Cam took the news like a man and did exactly what we told him to do.This fall Cam tried out again, healthier, stronger and faster. I threw everything I had at him to get him to break. But he didn't break. In fact, he was as good as any of our recruited athletes. I hadn't planned on adding any roster spots with this fall's try-outs, but created one for the kind of kid I want in our program. Now that he is officially a UNI athlete, Cam works his tail off, never complains and asks for nothing but the opportunity to compete as a Panther. Last Friday Cam sprinted his way into the MVC 60 meter Finals in his very first conference meet. Like Cam Brown, the two points he earned on Saturday are made of the salt of the Earth.

As a freshman in the fall of 2008, Derek Kramer joined the Panther team as a broken athlete. Marred with injuries, he barely was able to compete. His injuries continued into the fall of 2009. I told him to take the year off and get healthy. Never giving up, he came out again in the fall of 2010, this time reasonably healthy. Derek heroically made the 60m MVC Finals last year. Incredibly, he went on to run on the 2011 MVC Champion 4x100m relay squad and later earned 2nd team All-America honors in the same event. This 2012 indoor season, Derek has established himself as a bonifide MVC sprint threat. "We're going to sweep the 60," he said to me a couple of months ago. With two-time MVC 60m Champion, Carlos Anderson and two-time MVC 100m  Champion, Jared Herring; Derek Kramer's prediction came true. With those three athletes and the help of the unlikely Cam Brown, UNI scored an eye-popping 26 points in the 60m on Saturday. 


You would never know the unflappable Daniel Gooris has had a rough road. Always positive, always happy, the excellent student, Gooris epitomizes that which we all strive for in athletics. Four years ago as a true freshman, he won the the MVC Heptathlon title. One week later he nearly lost his life in a horrific motorcycle accident. His journey to this second title was a long one. He was the overwhelming favorite this year and most people didn't see his win as very extraordinary. His parents, on the other hand, traveled all the way from New Mexico to watch him win it. They know a miracle when they see one.  
Daniel's 2nd MVC Title

Olimpia Nowak has accomplished nearly everything you can as a collegiate athlete. On Friday in the Pentathlon she was simply brilliant. Olimpia broke her own school records in the 60m hurdles and the pentathlon en route to one of the top scores in the country. Next week she will have one final indoor meet as a panther when she takes on the very best in America at the NCAA Championships. Also a stellar student, Olimpia represents all we strive to be in UNI Track and Field.
Olimpia's 60m Hurdles School Record   

UNI pole vaulter and school record holder, Jenna Wexter has attempted to clear 13' for three years. I have witnessed the hard work and the frustration. Even though she has experienced much success in these three seasons, that 13' barrier had eluded her until Saturday. Our joy in watching her clear that bar was exceeded only by her own.

Jenna's School Record

In the most inspired performance of the 2011 Indoor MVC Championships, Justin Romero stole the Shot Put title. All year Justin has been predicting a repeat performance. Justin wasn't even close to being the favorite this year, but that didn't stop him from delivering on his promise.  
 Justin Romero's Win

The 4x400m Relay is my favorite event in track and field. This weekend, the Panthers won both men's and women's titles in dramatic fashion. Six of the eight athletes were true freshman, but all competed like seasoned veterans. The videos below are worth the viewing. 
MVC Men's 4x400m Relay

MVC Women's 4x400m Relay

All in all, the Panther men and women did a terrific job. We set PR's all over the place and stepped up and competed wonderfully. I am very proud of these teams. Like I said at the beginning of this post; I don't remember having so many moments to celebrate.

GO Panthers!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Stage is Set

I love to compete. Always have. My identical twin brother, Darrin and I used to make everything into a competition when we were kids. Now that I think about it, we haven’t changed much as adults. I love the thrill of a good fight. I love the head to head battles in sport; the come from behind victories, the last second shots and the impossible wins. I’ve had my heart broken by losing the close ones and I’ve known the wins that should never have happened. I’m not entirely sure a competitive nature can be taught. The resilience to stay strong in the battle, even when the chips are down is developed at a pretty early age. I don't think winners learn how to compete at this point in the game. The good ones have been winning by out-competing their opponents their whole lives. That is why I place far more importance on a recruit's ability to win than I do on their personal bests. If they know how to compete well at the big meets, chances are they will perform well at the next level.

In two days the UNI Panther tracksters will  embark on another indoor Missouri Valley Conference Championship. This is my favorite part of the year. I LOVE this stuff. The athletes are all peaking and everyone is mobilizing toward a common goal. It is in these team championships we find the reason track and field was once one of the most popular sports in America. This weekend at the MVC championships, you will see some of the most fun and exciting track and field you are likely to see anywhere. I want everyone to come to the meet because I want everyone to see track and field at it’s finest.

The Stage
According to the form charts, the men's team race appears to be a battle between Indiana State and Southern Illinois. Wichita State and UNI are well back.
On the women's side, Wichita State is the early favorite followed by Indiana State and Southern Illinois. 
The good news is that when it comes to MVC Championships, you can flush the form charts down the toilet. They are practically meaningless. 

Here is what I can tell you about Northern Iowa: We are well prepared for the meet and tougher than we were a year ago. I love the fight in this team. The veterans are seasoned and ready for the task at hand. They've seen a couple close MVC meets slip away and seem very focused on doing whatever is asked of them to help the Panther cause. The freshmen are too young to know they shouldn't win the meet, and hungry enough to stick their noses in places they don't belong. Fearless newcomers have a tendency to make a real mess of the form charts.

I have no idea where the UNI teams are going to finish in the team race, but we will be playing to win. I can't find many lessons in playing it safe. It should be a great battle. Both teams could win, both could finish as low as 4th or 5th. That is the beauty and nightmare of relying on freshmen. But this will be an incredibly fun meet. The Panthers that will be competing Saturday and Sunday don't have any quit in them. I have been around long enough to know a special group when I see one. Win or lose, they will make you proud to be supporting the Purple and Gold.
The meet is Saturday and Sunday, February 25th and 26th.The schedule is listed at the bottom of this blog.

9:30 a.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Women’s Pentathlon
10:00 a.m. 60 Meter Dash Men’s Heptathlon
10:30 a.m. High Jump Women’s Pentathlon
10:55 a.m. Long Jump Men’s Heptathlon
12:00 p.m. Shot Put Women’s Pentathlon
12:30 p.m. Shot Put Men’s Heptathlon
1:15 p.m. High Jump Men’s Heptathlon
1:45 p.m. Long Jump Women’s Pentathlon
2:45 p.m. 800 Meter Run Women’s Pentathlon
Field Events
1:15 p.m. 20# Weight Throw Women’s Trials and Final
3:00 p.m. Pole Vault Men’s Final
3:15 p.m. 35# Weight Throw Men’s Final
4:15 p.m. Long Jump Men’s Trials and Final
6:15 p.m. Long Jump Women’s Trials and Final
Track Events
3:00 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Women’s Prelims (If needed)
3:15 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Men’s Prelims (If needed)
3:30 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Women’s Prelims (If needed)
3:45 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Men’s Prelims (If needed)
4:00 p.m. 800 Meter Run Women’s Prelims
4:15 p.m. 800 Meter Run Men’s Prelims
4:35 p.m. 400 Meter Dash Women’s Prelims
4:50 p.m. 400 Meter Dash Men’s Prelims
5:05 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Women’s Semi Finals
5:20 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Men’s Semi Finals
5:35 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Women’s Semi Finals
5:50 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Men’s Semi Finals
6:05 p.m. 3,000 Meter Run (Slow Heat) Women’s Final
6:25 p.m. 3,000 Meter Run (Fast Heat) Women’s Final
6:45 p.m. 3,000 Meter Run (Slow Heat) Men’s Final
7:00 p.m. 3,000 Meter Run (Fast Heat) Men’s Final
7:15 p.m. 200 Meter Dash Women’s Prelims
7:30 p.m. 200 Meter Dash Men’s Prelims
7:45 p.m. Distance Medley Relay Women’s Final
8:05 p.m. Distance Medley Relay Men’s Final


9:30a.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Men’s Heptathlon
10:15 a.m. Pole Vault Men’s Heptathlon
12:15 p.m. 1,000 Meter Run Men’s Heptathlon
Field Events
11:30 p.m. Triple Jump Women’s Trials and Final
12:00 p.m. Shot Put Women’s Trials and Final
12:00 p.m. High Jump Men’s Final
1:30 p.m. Pole Vault Women’s Final
2:00 p.m. High Jump Women’s Final
2:00 p.m. Shot Put Men’s Trials and Final
1:30 p.m. Triple Jump Men’s Trials and Final
Track Events
1:00 p.m. Mile Run (Slow Heat) Women’s Final
1:10 p.m. Mile Run (Fast Heat) Women’s Final
1:20 p.m. Mile Run (Slow Heat) Men’s Final
1:30 p.m. Mile Run (Fast Heat) Men’s Final
1:40 p.m. 400 Meter Dash Women’s Final
1:45 p.m. 400 Meter Dash Men’s Final
1:50 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Women’s Final
1:55 p.m. 60 Meter Dash Men’s Final
2:00 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Women’s Final
2:10 p.m. 60 Meter Hurdles Men’s Final
2:20 p.m. 800 Meter Run Women’s Final
2:25 p.m. 800 Meter Run Men’s Final
2:30 p.m. 200 Meter Dash (2 sections) Women’s Final
2:35 p.m. 200 Meter Dash (2 sections) Men’s Final
2:40 p.m. 5,000 Meter Run Women’s Final
3:05 p.m. 5,000 Meter Run Men’s Final
3:25 p.m. 4 x 400 Meter Relay Women’s Final
3:35 p.m. 4 x 400 Meter Relay Men’s Final