On Jan. 14, 2023, the Northwestern track team headed to Dordt University to officially open up the 2023 season. While the meet hosted a small number of schools, the Raiders took advantage of their opportunity to compete and show how much they had improved. The Raiders had 16 personal records at the meet: an impressive number for any meet but especially so at the first one.
“I thought we did a great job coming off Christmas break being able to sustain our fitness levels,” said Tim Vander Ploeg, assistant coach. “We’re really happy with the amount of top five performances, too.”
The team had 40 top five finishers across the board, a great confidence booster as they head into the coming weeks and work towards the conference meet.
“We want to improve each week as we prepare for conference and make sure we’re peaking at the right time,” Vander Ploeg said. “We want to be in the top four (as a team) for both men and women in the conference.”
Senior Abigail Clarke also has big visions for the season. “This year my goal is to compete at nationals again,” she said. Clarke ran at nationals in 2022 in three races between indoor and outdoor season and looks to repeat that. She has already hit the NAIA B mark in the 600-meter run and currently sits 4th fastest in the conference.
Track is not only about the personal highs for Clarke, though. She looks to invest in her teammates in her final season and make memories.
“As a team, my vision is that we work hard in practice and then rejoice in one another’s successes. As a track captain, I hope to bring energy to practice and support my teammates as they are able to improve and meet their goals,” Clark said.
While many may think of track and field as an individual sport, those on the team know it is a community unlike any other. Although the athletes are not working together to win a big game, all of them are working towards personal bests and love cheering each other on through that. Between what outsiders see of big wins and new records, the athletes get to form relationships and, in Clarke’s words, “laugh and work hard together.”
Each week, the Raider track team looks to not only perform for themselves, but their teammates. Every day they work together to better their best and focus on the road to conference and even nationals. From the season opener and beyond, it is evident that the Raiders are ready for the 2023 season.