ISU track and field women race top runners in “marquee” events

Chris Wolff

Before the Bill Bergan Invitational, ISU assistant coach Andrea Grove-McDonough said that she was racing all of her top runners, many of them for the first time in their “marquee” events, this season.

The team hasn’t been at full strength through the first two meets of the season after sitting out certain athletes for training purposes, as well as giving them a break after the cross-country season.

When her athletes did race, often times they raced in events other than their “marquee” events, as a way to ease them back into the flow of competition.

Coming into the meet this weekend, Grove-McDonough said her athletes would be going “all out.” After the meet had concluded, the coach said her athletes had delivered.

“I thought we had really strong 3ks, obviously we had a good 800, and I thought the girls in the 1000 did a nice job,” Grove-McDonough said.

One of the athletes making her season debut was All-American Ejiro Okoro. Okoro finished the 800-meter run in a time of 2:05.78, breaking the Bill Bergan Invitational meet record, which she had set last season.

However, it turned out that Okoro didn’t even know she owned the record until just before the race began.

“When I was at the start line someone said it, and I didn’t know I had broken it last year, so I had to get back into competition mode before the race started,” Okoro said. “I’m just grateful that I got the result I did. I just take everything and am grateful with what I have.”

Okoro’s time in the 800-meter was the third fastest time in the nation for the event so far this season.

Also racing in their “marquee” events for the first time this season was Bethanie Brown and Sam Bluske, who took first and third in the 3,000-meter run, respectively.

Brown and Bluske both worked their way to the front of the pack, where they battled with a duo of Minnesota runners.

“I just tried to hang in there and knew I just needed to have a strong finish,” said Brown, who also said she got a little nervous after starting towards the back of the pack.

Kendra White also had a big day at the Bill Bergan Invitational, as the junior she set the program record in the 400-meter dash. She finished third in the competitive field, and her time was good enough for a top-20 time in the nation so far this season.

Bluske summed up the attitude of most of the athletes, especially of those who haven’t been competing regularly up to this point in the season.

“It’s just fun to be competitive again. We spend so many weeks just training, but it’s just really good to mix it up and let some of our competitiveness out,” Bluske said.

Now that the team is into the full swing of the season and going “all out”, they will focus on building upon their training and working towards the Big 12 Indoor Championships, which are now only a month away.

“I’m the kind of person who always wants to be better, but I’ve always felt that my teams have done a good job adjusting after their true openers … and seeing what went really well that we can build on and what we can work on,” Grove-McDonough said.