APPLETON, Wis. — The old expression says Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same is true for the Lawrence University track teams.
The Vikings and head coach Jason Fast have no allusions about this weekend’s Midwest Conference Championships at Ripon College’s Ingalls Field. The Vikings will not be title contenders, but that doesn’t mean Lawrence is not gunning for some hardware to take home.
“For the most part, we are swinging up. People are ready to go and feeling good about the conference championships,” Fast said. “Both teams have a chance to be in the top seven, top eight in the conference.
“We have a lot of people who are right on the border of scoring points. They are sitting in ninth through 13th in the conference. They are close to sneaking in there and scoring some points, and that would make a big difference for us.”
A few of those athletes finishing in the points could help Lawrence move up in the standings after the men took seventh and the women finished ninth in 2014.
“I’m proud of our teams this year,” Fast said. “We’ve overcome a lot of injuries and a lot of setbacks to bring things together. We’ve become a closer team and it’s been a lot of fun.”
One of Vikings aiming for a league title is junior Cam Davies, who has the fastest time in the league in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Davies was named the MWC Track Performer of the Week after running a 9:38.90 at the Hillsdale College Gina Relays last month.
“It’s been his goal since the indoor season to win the steeplechase,” Fast said of Davies, who took fourth in the event as a freshman in 2013. “It’s something he’s trained for and put himself in a good position to do.”
Davies will face stiff competition from Grinnell’s Anthony McLean and St. Norbert’s Hayden Hoffmann. Fast said strategic thinking plays a key role in winning the steeplechase.
“You have to constantly be able to refocus, and you have to be able to think on your feet for an extended period of time,” Fast said. “You need to constantly be able to process a lot of things while also staying competitive.”
Appleton native Max Edwards is shooting for a difficult double this weekend as he will run the 10,000 meters on Friday and then take a shot at the 5,000 on Saturday.
“Max is going to be doing the 10k for the first time, but I think he will have a shot to win,” Fast said. “It’s really hard, but most of the people he’s competing against are going to be doing a similar double. There’s no one who’s going to be in contention who is just running the 5k. I would be surprised if that were the case.”
Edwards’ time of 15:36.38 ranks second in the league in the 5,000, and he brings the credentials of being one of the league’s top cross country runners as well. Fast said how Edwards spends his time between the races is critical.
“I think it’s a matter of taking it one race at a time and taking the extra time in the recovery process,” Fast said. “It’s not only having a focused plan in your races but between your races.”
On the women’s side, Lawrence has record-breaking thrower Genna Matt. Matt has broken her own record in the hammer throw twice this season, the last time being this past Saturday’s Lawrence Invitational when she recorded a throw of 145 feet, 4 inches.
“Genna’s just been lights out in the hammer ring for the last two weeks in a row,” Fast said. “It seems like she’s in a really good rhythm right now. She sets aggressive goals for herself and she’s not intimidated by those things.”
Senior Anna Bolgrien has her sights set on a top finish in the 400 hurdles. The 2012 champion in the event, Bolgrien ranks fifth in the league with a time of 1:07.93.
“Anna’s had a couple of setbacks in the way of injuries, but these last few weeks she has looked really strong and has been competing well,” Fast said. “She’s a great competitor and is really good at sizing up her competition and performing her best.”