CEDAR FALLS — Like all Northern Iowa spring sports teams, the Panther men’s and women’s track team has been scrambling to get their outdoor season started.
Originally scheduled to run this past weekend in Lincoln, Neb., UNI had to instead head east after that meet was cancelled and the Panthers produced some solid numbers at the Gibson Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind., despite battling the elements.
It was a balmy 36 and sunny on Saturday, but Friday was some of the most strange weather UNI head coach Dave Paulsen has seen saying the 5,000, javelin and hammer throw were all competed in some kind of blizzard.
But the good news for Paulsen and the Panthers is the men and women combined for 10 wins.
“The competitive effort with our athletes was right where we wanted it to be,” Paulsen said. “We talked about your competitive effort is a choice regardless of what is happening. They really rose to the occasion there.”
Several Panthers put themselves in the hunt to score at the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Championships with their performances.
Isaiah Trousil is among the five fastest runners in the MVC in both the 100 and 200. Evan Long is third in the 400, and Jacob Smith’s 51.84 in the 400 hurdles is the top time in the MVC and among the top 20 times in the West Region.
Kyler Yodts won the shot put and his throw of 58-feet, 8 1/2 inches puts him in the top 25 in the West Region, while Thomas Yezek’s throw of 171-9 in the discus is the best in the MVC to date.
On the women’s side, Maddie Bell’s posted MVC top-eight times in both the 100 and 200. Brette Correy’s times in the 800 and 1,500 also both rank in the MVC’s top three.
“It was definitely at a championship effort of where they were at competitively,” Paulsen said.
UNI is next in competition this week in Iowa City, but because of hard to predict weather, Paulsen said he doesn’t know what day the meet will be saying Iowa was looking to push the meet up to Thursday or Friday to take advantage of what are expected warm conditions.
SOFTBALL: Sunday’s sweep of Valparaiso pushed the Panthers into a tie for third in the Valley with Illinois State at 5-5 overall in the conference. Drake (11-0) and Missouri State (8-4) have separated themselves from the pack, but UNI head coach Ryan Jacobs said more days like Sunday could see the Panthers challenge the leaders.
“We play good one day and play not so good the other day, this weekend we were lucky enough that the good day was scheduled for a double header,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said he was surprised the teams got their three-game series in as the weather hovered around the Valley minimum to allow play. On Saturday, he said Brooke Craig gave the Panthers a good enough effort in the circle to win, but the Panthers failed to score in a 2-0 loss.
But on Sunday, Emma Olejniczak produced two good starts allowing no runs in 10 2/3 innings pitched, and the Panthers exploded for 12 runs in a 5-0, 7-3 sweep.
“Probably the biggest thing of the day was Emma,” Jacobs said. “It was definitely a day where we needed to rebound and the kids answered the call.”
UNI is set to host Iowa State on Wednesday and Loyola Saturday and Sunday, but Jacobs said he can’t tell you where or if those games will be played.
“It is supposed to be mid-40s tomorrow, and 60 on Wednesday, but I don’t know if that gives us enough time to get the field dried out for Wednesday,” Jacobs said. “Depending on Iowa State’s schedule and how it works out for them we potentially could reschedule for Thursday. That gives us enough time to get the field ready or opens up some time in the UNI-Dome.”
As far as the weekend, Jacobs said the will be setting up the field either Thursday or Friday inside the Dome as a contingency that Robinson-Dresser won’t be playable.
WOMEN’S TENNIS: The Panthers wrapped a two-match swing through Indiana Sunday with a 4-3 win over Valparaiso on Sunday.
“Exciting match. Right from the start we were on ... got that doubles point which was huge,” head coach Chris Sagers said. “Then ... it was looking good we’re up 2-0 and all of sudden we lose at No. 1, lose at No. 2 and it was 2-2 and then Harri (Proudfoot) lost a tough one at No. 4 and we’re down 2-3.
“But Val Caro had a nice rebound after dropping second set, but just rolled in the third to win 6-1. Now 3-3 going to Savanna’s (Hunt) match and everyone was watching. Savanna ended up winning it and it was very exciting, nice to get that conference win.”
UNI lost to Ball State Friday.
“All in all, everybody played pretty well (against Ball State) although the match scores did not reflect that,” Sagers said.
UNI hopes to play at its new outdoor facility Saturday and Sunday when it hosts Bradley and Illinois State, if the weather allows, but will be inside the Black Hawk Tennis Club in Waterloo if not.