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Thursday, January 14, 2010 - page 3

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Season Preview
Track trek:
Mule teams eager to launch season

With Captain Kirk at the helm, the Muhlenberg men’s track and field team is hoping to boldly go where no Mule track team has gone before.

Senior Brendan Kirk is one of two captains for the Mules, who will open up their 2010 season together with the women’s team at Kutztown’s Golden Bear Invitational tomorrow. The indoor season consists of six meets before the Centennial Conference championship meet at the end of February, with the outdoor campaign scheduled to start in late March.

“We’re really excited to start out the season,” said Janelle Mentrikoski, one of four captains for the women’s team. “It’s been a long preseason, and we’re ready to see what we can do.”

Both Muhlenberg teams are coming off a season in
Patrick Thornton
Thornton was a member of the 4x800-meter relay teams that took first place at the Centennial Conference Indoor Championships each of the last three years.
which they explored some great highs – improving by two places at the CC Championships both indoors and outdoors – but also had space for improvement.

The men’s distance medley relay team earned All-America honors indoors by finishing fourth at the NCAA Championships last year. At the CC Championships, the Mules came in fourth indoors and third outdoors. Muhlenberg missed second place at the indoor meet by just two points and would like to transport back to the runner-up spot – or beyond – after finishing second three times between 2002 and 2005.

“We did well last year, and we return the vast majority of the points we scored at the conference meets,” said Kirk. “We have a lot of talent in pretty much every event, and that’s important if you want to compete for first place in the conference meet.” Quite logical.

Kirk will seek out his first trip to the NCAA Championships (the final frontier) after coming within a second of the NCAA provisional qualifying time the 400-meter hurdles. He has won that event at the CC Championships two of the last three years, placing second the other time.

“My number one goal is how the team does at the Centennial Conference Championships, but it’s always been a goal to get to NCAAs in the 400 hurdles. I guess it’s my last chance,” said Kirk. “I think I’ll do really well this year.”

Kirk also won a gold medal with the 4x100-meter relay team, and that foursome returns intact, with seniors Jeremiah Lachaud and Bill Ryan and sophomore Peter Rice joining Kirk.

Lachaud, who won three CC silver medals last year, is the Mules’ top returning sprinter. Rice and junior Bobby Torphy, the lone returning members of the All-America DMR team, will be key in the middle distances. Ryan, senior co-captain Patrick Thornton and junior Chris Dolan should contribute heavily in the relays.

In the field events, Muhlenberg’s strength is in the jumps, where senior Joseph Dyer and sophomore Marc Brookland each placed in two events
Janelle Mentrikoski
Mentrikoski is second on the Mules’s all-time performance list in the 400-meter hurdles.
at the indoor and outdoor CC meets in 2009.

Captain Mentrikoski may not have the same ring as Captain Kirk, but Mentrikoski is equally as optimistic about the upcoming season for the women. The Mules finished third at both CC meets in 2009.

“We have high expectations for how well we’re going to do,” said Mentrikoski, who won a bronze medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the CC outdoor meet last year. “Conferences is one day this year [indoors], and we think that will really work to our advantage because we have more depth in each event.”

Headlining the Mules’ returnees is out-of-this-world senior co-captain Alex Faust, a holder of seven school records who earned All-America honors in the pole vault and placed in a total of nine events at the two CC meets last year. Senior co-captain Jennifer Lynch energized Muhlenberg when she joined the team last year, setting five school records and qualifying for the NCAA Championships in the indoor mile.

Sophomore Jenna Schaffer is the top returning sprinter after winning four CC silver medals as a rookie. Junior Hannah Mitchell and sophomores Nicolette Miller and Kimberlee Yalango were key members of the successful 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams.

The Mules will look to improve in the field events after scoring only a handful of points outside of the pole vault last year, especially after the loss of co-captain Debra Crockett, the school record-holder in the shot put, to injury. The next generation of Muhlenberg track athletes should help in that area and others.

“We have a lot of talent from the incoming class, and we filled the holes we had last year. I think they’ll help us out a lot,” said Mentrikoski. On the prospects for the season, she added, “For us to have a good year, we’re going to have to take every meet seriously and step up when it’s time to perform.”

“If everyone can stay healthy, stay focused in what they need to do, and stay supportive of each other, there’s no reason we can’t have a very good season,” said Kirk.

Warp speed ahead!

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