After finishing their regular indoor seasons strong, the Loyola track and field teams are looking to carry that momentum at the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Indoor Championships Feb. 29 and March 1.
Loyola’s men’s team is ranked 104th out of 250 teams in national polls, according to the Track and Field Results Reporting System. This is the second-best ranking in the MVC behind No. 80 University of Northern Iowa.
The Ramblers head into the MVC Indoor championships on the top of the conference leaderboard in eight events on both the men’s and women’s sides. During the 2018-19 season, the teams only lead in three collectively.
“The quality of the team is extremely high — among the highest it’s ever been,” said head coach Bob Thurnhoffer. “From a qualitative standpoint, it really has been a spectacular season for us.”
Loyola currently leads the MVC in both the men’s and women’s distance medley relays (DMR) after the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Big Meet Feb. 15. The DMR is a relay run by four athletes and made up of 1200-meter leg, 400-meter leg, 800-meter leg and 1600-meter leg, in that order.
One of the members of Loyola’s men’s DMR quartet at the Big Meet was redshirt senior distance runner Kevin White.
White also clocked an MVC-best time of 1:52.09 in the 800-meter at the Alex Wilson Invitational Feb. 23 to move to the top of the Valley leaderboard in the event. He said he’s hoping to compete in both the DMR and the 800-meter at the MVC meet.
“[At the MVC meet], I just want to run smart and use the experience of being patient,” White said. “Five years is a lot of time to make mistakes so I’m hoping that I can remember those and learn from all of the trial and error.”
The women’s roster also leads several events in the MVC. Junior distance runner Tarynn Cullings is currently ranked first in the conference for her recorded time of 17:03.55 in the 5000-meter event at the GVSU Big Meet.
“I was expecting to run even faster than that just because of the way that training has been going,” Cullings said. “But when conference meets come, it’s really anyone’s race.”
One of the biggest standouts from the men’s roster is senior long jumper Eric Burns, who was recently named the MVC Male Field Athlete of the Week for the second time this season. Burns leads the MVC in the long jump after notching a personal-best 25’ 2.75” at the GVSU Big Meet.
“Jumping 25 feet in the long jump is really the exact same as breaking four minutes in the mile,” Thurnhoffer said. “It’s that kind of barrier or threshold, so it’s a huge deal in the world of long jumping.”
To put that jump in perspective, Burns would be second in the Big Ten Conference. The jumper who holds first in the Big Ten hit a mark of 25’ 3.5”, just one-fourth of an inch longer than Burns.
However, Burns said he’s still looking to develop before the MVC meet.
“There are definitely some mental things that I can improve on in the meet,” Burns said. “When it comes down to it, I think that is where I can grow the most, whether that be encouraging myself, trying to bring in my excitement or keeping it down.”
Meanwhile, senior long jumper Mackenzie Arnold said her biggest goal for the MVC meet is to keep it simple.
“I’m just going to go out there [at the MVC meet], jump and give it my all and what happens, happens,” Arnold said. “I would love to win, that’s always the biggest thing.”
Arnold is second in the conference in the long jump after making a jump of 18’ 9.75” at the 2020 Notre Dame Invitational Jan. 25. At the 2019 MVC Indoor meet, she placed second in the event with a jump of 18’ 10.75”
“I thought [Arnold] took her training to an extra level last year, but she’s built that up even more,” Thurnhoffer said. “I don’t want to jinx it, but it could be a long jump sweep for us at MVC this year.”
Loyola heads to the MVC Indoor Championships Feb. 29 and March 1.