Track and Field team wins third straight title
Matt Gad—Sports Writer
Led by junior Oghenefejiro Onakpoma and senior Turner Kelly, the Owls’ men’s track and field team won its third consecutive indoor conference championship thanks to strong performances from a number of teammates. The women’s team was also able to finish in good fashion, ending up in third out of the 12-team field.
“Track and field is an individual sport but at the same time when a team can come together to score all the points and help us win it is the best thing,” Onakpoma said. “Individual success is nice but when the team can win together it is even better.”
At the NE10 Championship meet, Onakpoma, who has qualified for the National Championship meet this season for the second time in a row, won the triple jump by jumping 15.43 meters, while Kelly, crowned this years league’s top field athlete, was first in the shot put with a throw of 16.53 meters.
Head Coach John Wallin said Onakpoma is comfortably in Nationals, which is set to begin March 8 to the 9, but a handful of other student-athletes will be tested to try to really improve their chances to reach the coveted meet and perform well there.
Last Friday, Southern’s program hosted a last-chance meet to try to get some of its student-athletes into a better position to compete nationally. Jesse Nelson, Milan Spisek and Jack Brown in the pole vault, Kelly in the shot put, Kade Amster and Trajan Lounsbury in the weight throw and Royale Jamison in the long jump are all on the balet, along with Shayna Smith in the long and triple jump and Erin McKee in the weight throw on the women’s side.
On Sunday, the team brought another group of athletes, like Nigel Green and Begotty Laroche, to Boston University for another all-or-nothing meet, which focused more on the track side of things.
“I think my training this year has helped me more with my running technique,” Laroche said. “I am starting to train for the 400 meters,” she said. “And I hit 24.42 in the 200, which is a provisional mark for NCAAs so I am going to be competing in nationals for the first time.”
While Laroche did qualify for next month’s National meet, Wallin said she they would still like to try to get her into a higher seed for her race, which is why she ran again over the weekend.
“Begotty is someone who really flew under the radar in high school, and I was told she was such a hidden gem,” Wallin said. “This year she has changed a lot about herself in the way that she competes. She performed phenomenally well at the conference meet.”
In addition to the performances of Southern’s premiere track and field athletes, such as Laroche, Kelly and Onakpoma, Bernando White, and Darius Williams, were some names that stood out on the women’s side were Smith, Rachel Fleischer, Caylea Landrie, Brooke Krohley and Nicole White.
Wallin said that the entire team supported and cheered for each other throughout the meet, and no matter who won what, they all came together in unity.
“The women were still excited to see the men win,” Wallin said. “And I think if it was the other way around the men would be happy to see them win, too. As long as Southern is winning at something that is all people at Southern generally care about.”