APPLETON, Wis. — Lawrence University track coach Jason Fast knows all about champions. He was one himself during his days of competition, and he’s coached countless conference and national champions.

When his Lawrence University track teams open competition on Friday at the Midwest Conference Championships in Beloit, Wis., Fast has several athletes fighting for individual titles. He also has dozens of other athletes competing for championships inside the championships, fighting to move up one place here or two places there to provide precious points for the Vikings.

“As a team it’s going to be a close competition for fifth to eighth place, and we see ourselves right in the middle of that,” Fast said of his men’s squad. “If we rise to the occasion as a team and have a couple of events go our way, then we will end up on the higher end of that spectrum. We have a good amount of entries that are currently ranked just outside the top eight who we believe will be able to step up and really help the team.”

The Lawrence men are paced by senior Sam Stevens, who is the defending champion in the 1,500 meters. Stevens will face stiff competition if he wants to repeat in the 1,500, and he also is a contender for two other titles Stevens is the top-ranked runner in the 3,000 steeplechase with a time of 9:28.57, and he has the second-fastest time in the league in the 5,000 at 15:14. 

The Vikings also will look to distance runners like Dan Thoresen and Jamie Brisbois to pick up points in a few events.

Freshman JP Ranumas is looking for a championship in the 110 hurdles and is tied for the second-fastest time in the league at 15.63 seconds. Ranumas also looks to pick up points for the Vikings in the triple jump.

Lawrence is led in the field events by sophomore Spencer Swick, who is ranked fourth in the shotput with a toss of 45 feet, 6 inches. Swick, Andy Paider and Nick Craker form the trio of throwers for Lawrence and could place in any of the throwing events.

Sophomore Anna Bolgrien is Lawrence’s returning champion on the women’s side after winning the 400 hurdles a season ago in 1:05.60. She enters the meet with the second-fastest time in the league at 1:05.75. The Vikings will be looking to place three athletes in the 400 hurdles because rookies Sofie Yang, ranked fifth in that event, and Hayley Cardinal, ranked 10th, give Lawrence a strong presence. 

Lawrence will need some strong performances throughout its lineup to move up from a seventh-place finish in 2012.

“We will be competing against Beloit and Knox for eighth place,” Fast said. “Our team has a lot more upside then those we are competing against, and we have some people in other events that are ready to step up and really turn some heads so that bodes well for us.”

Senior Rose Tepper looks to end her career with another conference championship in the high jump. Tepper is ranked fourth in the league at 5-3 and also is one of the top-eight runners in the league in the 200.

In addition to the 400 hurdles, Yang could pull down more points for the Vikings as she is ranked sixth in the pole vault and seventh in the 100 hurdles. Yang also has an outside shot at placing in the triple jump.

In the other field events, freshman Genna Matt set a school record recently in the hammer throw at 118-10 and also will try to place in the javelin.

Four honored in softball

In the wake of Lawrence’s second-place finish in the conference, three Vikings have been named to the all-conference softball squad and Kim Tatro earned North Division Coach of the Year honors.

Shannon Murray was selected as North Division Pitcher of the Year, and Cathy Kaye and Anna Wawiorka both were also chosen for the all-conference team.

Murray went 5-6 in conference play but posted an outstanding 2.17 earned run average. She struck out 39 and walked 12 in 67.2 innings. Murray also hit .513 in league play with four doubles and 11 runs batted in in 14 games.

Kaye hit .283 in league play and scored a team-high 10 runs. She also had two doubles, two homers and five RBIs. Wawiorka was second on the team with a .341 batting average in conference play with four doubles and five RBIs.

Tatro was honored as Coach of the Year for the seventh time in 20 seasons at Lawrence. Tatro, who has more wins than any coach in Lawrence history, led the team to 21 victories this season.

Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Director of Athletic Media Relations Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.