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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Closing the book on track’s record-writing 2023-2024 season

Recapping the men’s and women’s indoor track teams' outstanding performance in the Patriot League Championships

The American University indoor track men’s and women’s teams both excelled during their 2023-2024 season. The teams cracked open the record books to make room for new top-ten performances from multiple athletes throughout the season.

Twenty-six AU runners traveled to Boston to compete in the Patriot League Championships on Feb. 24 and 25. Multiple racers put up impressive performances throughout the weekend event, with several Eagles qualifying for final races while breaking school and personal records alike. 

Head coach Sean Graham has worked in his seven years at AU to build up the track and cross country programs, and in recent years has worked extensively in improving AU’s sprinting program. Part of that investment has involved bringing in experienced sprinting athlete and assistant coach Tyra Massey. Other coaches of the team include former distance runners Zach Prescott – who also serves as the team’s recruitment coordinator – and Molly Foster, volunteer assistant coach Matt Hillenbrand

The investment is already paying off. Of the eight new records set this year across both teams, all but one were in sprinting events. Freshman sprinter Lorelei Bangit said of the recent sprint investment, “We’re all here for the same reasons, to build the program … It’s very exciting for all of us.”  

Coach Massey, who works with both sprinting teams, said “They’re talented … They can compete and do good, which they did in Patriot Leagues.”

Bangit was one of the regular record-breaking sprinters from the women’s team this season. She holds the AU record in the indoor 400-meter dash at 55.42 after continuous improvements throughout the season. She set her record during the Patriot League Championships finals race, in which she placed fourth.

Bangit was also a regular fixture in the 4x400 meter relay throughout the season. The AU record for the relay was set on the second day of championships with a time of 4:01.23 from the team of three freshmen: Bangit, Adeline Dipaolo and Hannah Puckett, with sophomore Grace Kirk anchoring. 

Freshman Ciera Thacker stood out early in her inaugural collegiate indoor season as well. She set her personal and school record in the 60-meter dash in the very first meet of the season. Thacker’s astounding 7.90 time now sits at the top of the AU indoor record book for the event. Running in the championship preliminary race, Thacker put up an impressive time but didn’t advance to the finals. Thacker additionally broke the top AU record for the 200-meter dash with a time of 25.53, which she set on Feb. 10. 

While the sprinting side of the women’s team saw stunning successes this season, the middle and long-distance runners continued to improve and compete in championships.

Senior distance runner June Mwaniki secured top performances in the AU record books in the 5000-meter and 3000-meter runs this season. Mwaniki ran the second-fastest AU performance in the 5000 with a time of 17:03:97 during the championship race, placing 5th place. 

Mwaniki raced alongside teammates senior Kylie Raymond and graduate student Rachael Potter. Raymond also set a personal record during the race achieving an 18:39.30 time. 

Mwaniki additionally ran in the finals for the 3000-meter race on the second day of the Patriot League Championships, along with sophomores Sophia Staiger and Skyler Tatum. Mwaniki again continued to improve in Boston as she finished with a time of 9:54.48 which is ranked 6th in the top 10 AU performance list.

The distance medley relay was on the second day of the championships. This race consists of four legs of staggered distances– starting with a 1200-meter distance run, then a 400-meter sprint, back up to an 800-meter mid-distance run, and finally a 1600-meter, near-mile run. 

Junior Kirah Tianga, and seniors Cassandra Daniele and Callia Cordasco started the medley and then passed the baton to sophomore Kate Riley for the closing 1600. The team finished with a time of 12:37.08, only 5 seconds behind the 10th fastest AU record. 

The men’s indoor track team followed similar record-breaking trends as the women’s team. AU’s men’s team broke all of the school's top records this season at the Patriot League Championships in Boston.

While the championship environment undoubtedly pushes the motivations of athletes, the surface and design of Boston University’s track also may have been a key factor in these successes.

Boston’s track is highly regarded as one of the best indoor tracks in the country. Its banked design allows runners to more easily complete turns with speed while maintaining their centrifugal force as opposed to a flat-surface track. This design is more beneficial for the 200-meter indoor tracks, as runners have to complete more turns than on an outdoor 400-meter track.

The banked track tries to reduce the disadvantages of indoor running, but AU runners still face hurdles in training due to not having an indoor track available to practice on. Coach Massey said, “We have to adjust to the workouts, but I think they’ve done a really good job.”

Despite the design advantages of Boston University’s indoor track, the 60-meter dash takes place in the middle of the ‘field’ area to mitigate the advantages of the indoor track’s banking designs. Sophomore Fernando Ibarra and freshman Jason Omori-Anim both ran in the preliminaries. 

Both runners had secured a top-10 AU performance in the 60-meter dash this season before championships but didn’t achieve new personal records in Boston. 

Ibarra also ran in the 200-meter dash preliminaries race, in which he ran 21.95 — setting both personal records and a new school record time for the event. He advanced to the final 200-meter race and placed seventh. 

Freshman Malcolm Lewis cut down a full second from his previous personal record in the 400-meter dash during the championship preliminary race, breaking the AU record with an impressive 49.48 time. 

Also running in the 400m championships were freshmen Emilio Hooper and Toby Khang. Hooper achieved a personal record in the race and landed himself in the top 10 AU performance list in 10th place with a time of 51.57. 

Ibarra and Lewis started off the first legs of the 4x400-meter relay race on the second day of championships, joined by senior Ethan Puc, and sophomore Kaden Kluth serving as anchor. The team placed in fifth place but earned the top performance in AU 4x400-meter relay history with their 3:22.81 time. 

Kluth and Puc also ran in the preliminary 800-meter middle-distance race. Kluth’s finishing time matched AU’s 51-year-old record in the event, and he placed second to qualify for the final race. 

In finals, Kluth finished with a 1:48.93 record-setting time, speeding past his previous PR by over 2 seconds. He placed in second again, close behind Army senior Luke Griner, and solidified himself as the top AU record for the 800-meter run. 

Several other Eagles from the men’s team also ran in the mile run, 3000-meter distance race, and distance medley relay race.

The men’s team also ran the 4x800-meter relay, despite the event not being a part of the NCAA. The relay team of Puc, junior Danny O’Neill, freshman Matthias Deldicque, and sophomore Carver Morgan finished in second place behind Leigh University with a time of 7:34.62. Their combined effort made the top ten AU record book at the fourth fastest time.

After the Patriot League Championships, sophomore Morgan and senior Puc went on to race in the 800-meter run at the Boston Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America Championships (IC4A) on March 2nd and 3rd. 

Morgan won the event on the first day, both setting a new personal record and the second-place all-time AU record with a time of 1:50.57.

Overall at the Patriot League Championships, AU placed in ninth place in team scoring for women’s and seventh for men’s. Despite these low scores, the stand-out performances from Eagle runners – especially several freshmen – indicate significant success and progress for the program. 

Additionally seasonal accomplishments include four Eagles overall being selected for the Patriot League’s All-Academic Teams – Kluth, Puc and Reeves were voted to represent the men’s team and Kirk for the women’s. 

With the successes of the indoor season, there are high expectations of success for the team for the outdoor track season. The season began on March 22, and runners have already put up new personal records, top-ten school performances, and already one new school record from freshman Lorelei Bangit in the women’s 200-meter dash.

Coach Massey said she was very excited about the outdoor season for her sprinting teams, “I feel like they’ve put all of the pieces together now.” 

This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks and Ariana Kavoossi.

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