Iowa State women’s track and field traveling light to Musco Twilight

Iowa State senior Christabel Okeke competes in the women’s weight throw during the Iowa State Classic on Feb. 9, 2018.

Spencer Suckow

This week, you can just call them the field team.

After the Musco Twilight meet in Iowa City was moved from Saturday afternoon to Thursday afternoon, an already small group of entries from the Iowa State women’s track and field team shrank even further to allow much of the team to rest.

As a result, there are only four Cyclone women scheduled to compete in Iowa City as of right now, all of them throwers. Assistant coach Andrea Grove-McDonough mentioned last week so many meets in a short amount of time has put plenty on the plates of her athletes, and this may have played a factor in the decision to withdraw all runners this week.

“For these women, who are all great students, they’re missing a lot of class right now,” Grove-McDonough said. “So there’s stress there. They’re managing things besides just running.”

So, the only representatives on the women’s side this week will be throwers Essence Henderson, Christabel Okeke, Tessa Krempel and Keiara Williams.

Even the limited number of entries, don’t mean it’s likely for Iowa State to come home empty-handed. All four of the throwers listed above have had a considerable amount of success to start the outdoor season, and each seems to be improving every week.

After mentioning last week how she expected more of herself, Henderson responded by setting new personal records in both the shot put and discus. Her shot-put throw of 50-8 ¼ feet earned her first place in the event, while her 162-foot-5 discus throw earned her a fifth-place finish.

Only a freshman, Henderson credits the early success to a constant desire to better herself.

“I’m just trying to continue to improve,” Henderson said. “As long as I get 1 percent better every day and every meet, it’ll be great.”

Over in the hammer throw, both Okeke and Krempel had excellent meets at the Sun Angel Classic. Okeke also set a new personal record in the meet’s premiere division with a 186-foot-9 throw, good enough for fifth in the event.

Krempel, meanwhile, took first place in the open division with a 170-foot-3 throw, which was her second first-place finish in the last three meets.

For Krempel, the victory last week could almost be described as cathartic. According to her teammate Okeke, Krempel was unhappy with the way her season has played out to this point and was struggling with some confidence issues heading into last weekend’s meet.

So, Okeke took it upon herself to build up Krempel’s belief in herself before the meet even began, making Krempel’s victory that much sweeter in the end.

“I kept telling her ‘Hey, you can do it. Push yourself. You have to dig deep,’” Okeke said. “She was very happy and I was very happy for her because I knew she could win it.”

While Krempel’s victory was very rewarding given the circumstances, Okeke’s performance was also a gratifying moment given the adversity she herself has gone through this season. For over a month, Okeke dealt with vertigo and only just started her outdoor season at the Florida Relays less than two weeks ago.

After over 10 treatment sessions to rearrange the crystals in her ears, Okeke says she’s finally starting to feel more in control and back to her normal self. While that’s undoubtedly great news for Okeke going forward, she might not be around long enough to see the benefits in competition.

The reason being this week is Okeke’s last competition of the regular season, and possibly her career. The senior, who hails from Carrollton, Texas but is Nigerian, is traveling to Nigeria this week for the funeral of her grandfather, who died in January.

“Our culture is that we have to bury our family members in our homeland,” Okeke said of the trip. “I’ll be back, hopefully by the grace of God, for the [Big 12 Outdoor Championships].”

If this turns out to be the end for Okeke, there will be no regrets. She says she’s happy with her career as a Cyclone and “grateful” to have been at Iowa State on scholarship, but that there are ultimately other passions that she’s ready to pursue.

With that being said, Okeke made it clear she’ll be leaving it all out on the line in her regular season finale at Iowa State. Okeke’s qualified for regionals as of right now, but the goal this week is to give herself more of a cushion, in order to guarantee that extra meet when she comes back to campus.

While a quick turnaround could present an obstacle to achieving that goal, Okeke isn’t worried. She says she and the other throwers welcome the challenge, and the whole group is eager for more chances at better results.

“We’re pretty used to the quick turnaround and we actually want that,” Okeke said. “We haven’t achieved what we want to be yet, and we feel like the more opportunities we get to be in a better position, then why not do it?”