Track sends distance runners out

By Rhema Rhea

Track and field’s distance group is back on the track for the second time this spring as it travels to Charleston for the EIU Big Blue Classic.

NIU will look to build of its success from last weekend’s Raleigh Relays, where three of the five distance runners topped their personal best in their respective event. With another week of practice in the books, coach Greg Hipp said his girls are ready to get back after it.

“Good week of practice so far,” Hipp said. “We’re trying to get some work in since it’s still early on in the season, but they’re being careful since we have limited race opportunities. So we need to take advantage of each one the best we can.”

Hipp is hoping for another meet with good performances across the board, including one from his team captain from the cross country season, junior Jamie Burr, who has been sidelined with injury since the MAC Championships Nov. 2.

“Obviously we’d like to get some great performances,” Hipp said. “A little bit of the goal is to get a bit of a speed workout in. We’ll be using a shorter distance race than some of them normally go. Jamie Burr is going to be opening up for the first time since cross country; [I’m] looking forward to that. She’s been working really hard. We’re not quite race sharp yet, but she’ll get there by May.”

One change the outdoor schedule brings to distance runners is the steeplechase event; NIU will try out to athletes in this event for the first time this season.

“Ali Olson and Carly Pederson are going to run the steeplechase,” Hipp said. “This will be the first time in their careers that they’ve done that. So we’re trying them in that event since they both seem to have the skills to do well in it.

“In the steeplechase, each lap has four steeplechase barriers and then a fifth one that has a barrier with a 12-foot water pit in front of it. It’s definitely a challenging race. We use the hurdles here in practice, but in a race the steeplechase barriers are a little bit different: If you hit it they don’t move, you do. So it’s a little bit tougher. If you hit a hurdle, the hurdle falls over, but if you hit a steeplechase barrier, you fall over.”