The Loyola men’s and women’s track and field teams kicked off their indoor seasons at the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Holiday Open on Dec. 2 in Allendale, Michigan.
Fresh off conditioning and training for the winter and spring seasons, the Ramblers are chomping at the bit to compete and let loose in the first major invitational of the year, according to first-year head coach Bob Thurnhoffer.
“In the weeks leading up to our first meet, you can just see the increase in energy level and focus,” said Thurnhoffer. “I could see that these guys and girls are ready to make a statement and start off the indoor season right.”
Thurnhoffer said he expects to grow as a team going into the GVSU Open and the rest of the indoor season.
“With such a young team, I’d say [our goal is] more philosophical in the sense we’re trying to build a good team camaraderie and a good team culture this season,” Thurnhoffer said. “This will undoubtedly help us achieve our goals in competition.”
The Ramblers’ young team is mostly comprised of Thurnhoffer’s first recruiting class, which features new, high-level competitors who are mostly from the Midwest and had Thurnhoffer buzzing at their prospects for the program over the next few years.
“It was a priority of mine to bring in a big, talented recruiting class, and we did that with high-level talent littered throughout the men’s and women’s teams ready to begin competing now.”
The runners now look to the winter season to ramp up their skills in preparation for spring, and despite the team’s youth, it still has two of the best seniors in the Missouri Valley Conference on the men’s and women’s sides, in sprinter Jaz Hayes and sprinter and jumper Kiera Washpun.
Hayes, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, is coming off a 2015-16 spring season in which he broke the school record in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.54 seconds. Hayes, now a leader for the program going into his final season, said that instead of focusing on personal milestones and achievements, he hopes to unify the team during the indoor season.
“Personally, I just want to be consistent in my performances this season, whether that’s in place, time or team-orientated, and I want to help these younger guys get into the groove and get motivated as the season goes on,” said Hayes.
Hayes has the chance to add onto his impressive resume during his time at Loyola, and according to Thurnhoffer, he has almost reached a major milestone.
“Jaz is well on his way to being the best sprinter in program history; he’s stepped up time and time again for this program, and he continues to prove he’s a fierce competitor,” said Thurnhoffer.
On the women’s side, junior Kiera Washpun headlines the team in both sprinting and the long jump. Coming off her record high of 18.27 feet in the long jump last season at the Indiana Relays, Washpun set high targets for the upcoming season.
“At the GVSU, I want to jump an 18 right out of the gate, and as the season goes on, I think a good goal is to jump over 20 feet and attain the No. 1 record for long jump in the history of Loyola,” said Washpun.
Washpun will continue attempting to break school milestones while helping develop Loyola’s next group of jumpers and sprinters. She said these first invitationals are crucial for developing confidence and setting the young team members up for success moving forward.
Washpun said these first events and the entire indoor season are important because the heightening of competition allows the team to build the necessary strength and character for success come outdoor season.
The team will hope for good results at the GVSU Open to propel it to future success and to get out of the gate fast toward a successful indoor season. The team will continue its indoor season on Jan. 21 in Milwaukee for the John Tierney Quadrangular.