The track team trained for over three months, and their dedication showed as the women’s and men’s teams secured third and fourth place on Saturday at the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) championship meet in New York. It was a bittersweet victory as it was the final time the senior runners would run around the track together.
Looking back over the past four years, senior Emma Polefko points to the support of her coach and teammates as the inspiration that kept her going.
“My teammates, past and present, became my best friends,” Polefko said. “They gave me a reason to race, and Coach [Barber] gave us constant support. We wouldn’t be half the team we are if not for him. Each day we aimed to do better and be better for Coach and our team.”
While head coach Matt Barber led the team, the seniors took it upon themselves to be role models for the younger runners.
“The seniors have inspired the team throughout the entire year, and while most seniors were checking out of classes and beginning to slack, the seniors on the track team all showed an inspiring amount of dedication that gave our team the edge to do well this weekend,” junior Katie McIntyre said.
The seniors actively worked to incorporate the newer runners both on and off the track.
“I can’t even begin to explain the seniors’ contributions to the team,” freshman Bridget Kennedy said. “I don’t think they even realize the great impact they have had on the team as a whole. They organized track bonding gatherings, making home-cooked dishes for the team — and, by the way, they are fantastic cooks.”
“Even the little things, such as Emma’s ‘soccer mom’ tendencies, Ruth’s entertaining rants on long runs and the guys’ non-stop humor, impacted the team in an immeasurable way,” Kennedy said. “Their presence will be greatly missed; although, I am very proud to have been a part of a team with such extraordinary, well-rounded runners.”
However, the seniors have done a lot to prepare the team to continue their legacy.
“The program is in great shape and will flourish under Coach Barber,” senior Jack Grubner said.
The past four years have been the program’s best, benefiting from excellent leadership, recruiting large numbers and breaking numerous records.
The team’s standard of excellence stood them well this past weekend. The girls earned two gold medals with McIntyre securing first in both the 200 and 400-meter dashes. McIntyre was also part of the quartet that placed first in the women’s 4X100 relay along with sophomores Ellen Jennings and Audrey Zohorsky, and junior Cora Keil.
When asked about her numerous successes, McIntyre displayed the team’s usual spirit of solidarity.
“I was happy to get the individual wins, but it was even better to get the 4X100 win with my team,” McIntyre said. “After such a tough season, it was a great feeling to see the new spark of confidence in Ellen, Audrey and Cora.”
The sprinters were not the only champions that day.
Kennedy also took home a gold medal when she surprised everyone during the steeplechase with a time of 12 minutes 25 seconds.
“The steeplechase is a very daunting race,” Kennedy said. “Hurdling on its own is tough, but adding the distance along with the water barriers makes it extremely terrifying.”
Finishing up the season and saying goodbye to the seniors was difficult for the team, but as Kennedy said: “We cherished the time we had together and made the best of it, joking around, laughing, making human pyramids and simply enjoying the presence of the wonderful people that God has blessed us with knowing!”
While the seniors may be moving on, they are leaving behind a close-knit team to carry on their legacy.