Loyola Track & Field Finds Individual Successes at MVC Indoor Championships, Prepares for Outdoor Season

Steve Woltmann | Loyola AthleticsFirst-year Jason Clayton finished as the runner up in the men’s 3000m run at the MVC Indoor Championship.

The Loyola track & field teams competed in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Indoor Championships Feb. 27-28. The teams finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the men’s and women’s standings out of nine and 10 teams.

At the MVC meet, Loyola earned three podium finishes while posting four personal best times. After a successful indoor stretch, the Ramblers look to transition to their challenging outdoor season, set new personal records and succeed at their last MVC Outdoor Championships.

Wrapping up their indoor schedule, the Ramblers were led at the meet by first-year mid-distance runner Jason Clayton’s runner-up finish in the men’s 3,000m run. In just his fifth collegiate meet, his time of 8:03 earned him an All-MVC accolade. Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Gavin Kennedy said Clayton has adjusted well after moving from Melbourne, Australia, adding that he has learned a lot prior to the outdoor season.

“Jason has done a nice job … [with] a massive life transition moving from Australia to Chicago,” Kennedy said. “He has done a really nice job in the conference championships, I think he learned a few things for his advantage going into the outdoor season.” 

First-year mid-distance runner Nora Wollen also excelled at the meet, notching a personal best in the women’s 3,000m run with a time of 9:49. Kennedy said she has done well for a first-year given his high expectations, adding that she will need to adjust to longer distances in the outdoor season. 

“It’s not easy being a freshman and having a lot of expectations put on you, but she’s risen to the occasion every time she’s put on the uniform,” Kennedy said. “The next challenge for her is to step up in a longer distance, there’s no 3,000 meter [event] outdoors, she’s going to have to step up to the 5,000 meter [event] which can be daunting.”

Also receiving All-MVC accolades at the MVC Championships, senior jumpers Jana Rokitta and Sarah Olojo earned podium placings. Rokitta matched her indoor personal best with a 5-06.50 high jump to net third-place in the women’s event, while Olojo placed second in the women’s triple jump with a leap of 39-03.00. 

Overall, the indoor schedule was successful for Kennedy’s young program in his first season at the helm. While Loyola didn’t place high as a team in its meets, it did gain nine podium placings across all events. Wollen, an advertising and public relations major, said the indoor schedule allowed the team to build confidence and get in better shape for the outdoor season. 

“[The] indoor [season] is the time when you get in really good shape, and you basically are preparing your body for the rest of the year,” Wollen, 18, said. “I think going into [the] outdoor [season] after a lot of people [got] personal bests indoors, everyone is really confident and ready for a new season.” 

Aside from a confidence boost, Clayton said the team has taken big leaps forward, and he’s also seen jumps in his teammates’ personal records. While he wanted to score higher at the meet, the team’s experience at the MVC championships has kept the team hungry for success in the outdoor season, the 20-year-old said.

After finishing the indoor schedule, Kennedy wants his team to build off its success at the MVC Championships to prepare for its meet at the Raleigh Relays in Raleigh, North Carolina March 24-26. He said the trip to Raleigh is a reward for student-athletes like Clayton who have performed well, giving them a chance to prove themselves against tough competition.

“The emphasis is still going to be the same,” Kennedy said. “We are headed down to North Carolina next week with the people that competed at a high level at the conference meet, it’s a reward for doing such a great job. We want to pick up where we left off, we don’t want to come in with a whole reset.”

Last season, Loyola found success in Raleigh, netting new personal bests while exposing the team to schools from around the country. Then-junior distance runners Kathleen Simms and Anneka Murrin both etched their names into program history by running the third-fastest times in the 10,000m event and 5,000m run, respectively.  

Now, Clayton, who’s pursuing an environmental studies degree, said the team has focused on preparing for tough competition in Raleigh to kick off the outdoor season. Kennedy has urged his team to work hard in Raleigh while improving for the MVC Outdoor Championships this spring, Clayton said.

“Over spring break we did a little bit of a mini-training camp, and we stayed on campus to prepare ourselves for Raleigh,” Clayton said. “Coach Kennedy likes to call it a business trip, but we aren’t too stressed about the result. Obviously, we want the best result possible, but the main goal is to keep improving and get ready for conference [championships].”

The track & field team is set to return to action at the Raleigh Relays March 24-26 in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

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