Four athletes sent to Nationals
Matt Gad—Sports Writer
The men’s and women’s track and field squads sent four student-athletes to Division II Nationals earlier this month: jumper Oghenefejiro Onakpoma, miler Terrell Patterson, vaulter Milan Spisek and sprinter Begotty Laroche, with both Onakpoma and Patterson claiming All-American honors.
“Every time you take a kid to the national meet you are trying to give them the opportunity to score and to become an All-American,” head coach John Wallin said.
Onakpoma, a junior who made it to Nationals the previous year, finished in sixth in the championship stage of the triple jump with a 15.42-meter attempt after placing 13th last indoor season. Patterson, a sophomore and first time Nationals competitor, finished sixth in the mile with a time of 4:13.01.
“As a coaching staff, we were all pretty excited about having two [All-Americans athletes]. We are used to getting more, like maybe five years ago, but we have to look at how competitive it is now versus how competitive it was back then,” Wallin said. “We were very excited with how everybody performed but we need to see how we can make improvements on sixth-place finishes.”
Spisek needed to vault over 17 feet to be able to score in the National meet but kept his composure and became more and more comfortable with each vault, Wallin said.
Laroche ran her second fastest time all season and was able to maintain her abilities and skills even though she was under the weather the weekend of competition, said Wallin.
“The atmosphere brings a lot of excitement,” Onakpoma said. “There were a lot of similar faces and we were all jumping together. You can not forget it is nationals, of course, but I just went in there knowing I was going to leave with a title.”
He said he felt much more comfortable approaching the meet and competing in it this year due to his prior experiences. However, Patterson, coming off a strong cross country season where he helped his team reach the national championships, was at indoor nationals for the first time ever.
“Cross Country was a big season for us with getting a conference title and going to the national meet, so I just tried to take that momentum to this meet,” Patterson said. “It was a little nerve-racking, but the goal every time is to place as high as we can.”
To reach the finals for the mile, Patterson ran 4:10.35 and finished in sixth place out of a field of 16 runners. In his championship race, he was just one-tenth of a second behind the race’s fifth man in his sixth-place performance.
“We do not like to treat the national meet any differently,” Patterson said. “And going into any race you want to be up front when it matters, so in no way was I just running to be there. The goal was to make the final, and when I made the final the goal was to get onto the podium.”
Onakpoma said last year he was so close to gaining All-American status, so this year he came in with something to prove.
“This indoor season I came in with a chip on my shoulder and I had that mindset going in; it felt like just another meet to me,” he said.
Now that the indoor season has wrapped up, everyone has gone straight into training for the outdoor campaign. The men’s and women’s teams are set to open the season at the beginning of next month as well as April 11th and 12th, when they will host the Northeast Combined Events Challenge in the Moore Field House.