Outdoor track and field looks to ‘destroy’
After a year filled with success, the men’s track team remains hungry and is ready to take care of business again in the 2019 outdoor season.
During the 2018 outdoor season, the Owls claimed their second straight, and 15th overall NE10 Conference Championship, as well as winning the program’s fifth New England Championship, the program’s fourth for outdoor.
They ultimately ended the season by finishing No. 1 in the United States Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) regional rankings. The Owls also finished with 34 regional selections and have come into 2019 loaded with talent.
“Who shouldn’t we keep an eye on?” said head coach John Wallin when asked who he thinks will stand out this year. “There’s a lot of talent on this team, you can’t leave anybody out. We just need to make sure our guys stay healthy.”
Wallin’s squad enters the 2019 outdoor season ranked 23rd in a USTFCCCA national poll and currently sits atop the regional poll. Wallin also received Coach of the Year honors in the NE10 last year.
His team is fresh off its third straight NE10 Conference title in the 2018-19 indoor season.
The Owls can not afford to bask in their seemingly perennial glory, though, as the preparation for the outdoor season, which comes with added difficulty and new factors, is much different than the preparation for indoor competition.
“It’s different,” said Coach Wallin. “The track is much bigger, the weather plays a factor, it’s different.” Wallin’s runners would agree with him that outdoor track is a much different game than indoor, but his team is more than ready for the challenge.
“You’ve got to be prepared to have your best race every meet,” said sophomore Jordan LemboFry. “In indoor you kind of have chances to make it up if you don’t start off well at first but you want to be at your best from start to finish in outdoor.”
In 2019, Lembo-Fry will be entering his second outdoor campaign at Southern and despite the growing pains that he faced as a freshman, those experiences have better prepared him for this season.
“Just got to stay focused and relax and really just trust the process,” he said. “Sometimes, things just don’t go your way at first, but if you take the time to sit back and just focus, put in hard work and dedication, things will work out in the end.”
The Owls also return star junior Oghenefejiro Onakpoma, an All-American selection for the indoor triple jump as a sophomore. Onakpoma was an NCAA qualifier and an all-region selection for both outdoor and indoor in 2018, and believes this team is ready to dominate again.
“Just destroy, we’re ready to destroy all these teams,” said Onakpoma. “Being the alpha team in the conference, it’s like, there’s a chip on our shoulders because everyone wants to beat the winners. We can’t let that happen, so we’ve got to destroy every team when we get the chance.”
Coach Wallin may not use words like, “destroy,” but like his players, he believes his team has what it takes to keep the glory-run going.
“We can win our conference and regionals,” said Wallin. “This team, they grind. They work hard.”
No matter how much success they have, this Owls team wants everyone to know that they are far from being done.
“We’re always ready for war,” said Onakpoma. “We’re war ready. If you’re going to challenge us, we’re ready to challenge you back. We are the Owls, and we’re here. We don’t back down from anybody.”