The teams traveled to Myrtle Beach, S.C., over spring break to practice and compete in the Shamrock Invitational hosted by Coastal Carolina University.
“We often did more than one workout a day,” said women’s head coach Evelyn Freeman. “It was nice to not be limited by time. There was a lot more opportunity to work on technical events.”
After a week of practices, athletes competed in the invitational against top competition including St. Norbert College, UNC Wilmington, University of South Carolina, and 2008 Division II champion St. Augustine College.
On the men’s side, team Captain Nick Sparr ’09 ran away with the 3000 meter race, winning in a time of 8 minutes 47.44 seconds, while setting a school record for the event.
“It felt good,” said Sparr. “Especially to beat some Division I guys.”
Willie Stewart ’09 placed third in the javelin throw, throwing an impressive 191’ 11”, an NCAA Division III National’s provisional mark, the temporary mark to qualify for nationals.
“I was pleased with my throwing,” Stewart said. “It was a vast improvement upon my opening meet last year; hopefully it speaks of good things to come.”
For the women’s team, Becky Bessinger ’09 claimed fifth in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, with a time of 11:53.85.
“It’s been two years since she’s run that race,” Freeman said. “So it was nice to see her get a good race under her belt.”
One disadvantage plaguing Grinnell in the past has been low team numbers in certain events, particularly shorter distances. However, this season Coach Freeman has seen that trend reverse.
“In the past distance runners have been at least half the team,” Freeman said. “This year we have a lot of new sprinter-jumper types, so that really helps with balancing our team.”
Although the team did not fare too well at the Midwest Conference Indoor Championships, with the men taking fifth place and women eight-place, Coach Freeman cites injuries and missing athletes for the results.
“Had we been at full strength we have no doubt that we would’ve finished second,” Freeman said. “With the women, we had quite a few health issues and some key athletes studying abroad.”
Once the team gets healthy, and with the addition of some outdoor events, namely the javelin, in which Grinnell has four of the top five throwers in the conference, both squads are looking to move up in a conference traditionally dominated by Monmouth College.
“This is the most complete team in my four years,” Stewart said. “We have never had a male high jumper, and now we have Dylan [Boucher ’12] and Andy [Hirakawa ’12] who could both potentially place at conference.”
The Pioneers will be traveling to meets the following two weekends, before retuning home to host their only home meet of the season, the Dick Young Classic on April 18.