By Carly Fehler, UWEC Sports Information
NAPERVILLE, Ill. (Blugolds.com) - The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire track and field teams had an up and down first day in Naperville, where competition for the 2017 NCAA Indoor Track and Field National Championships began Friday morning at North Central College.
Jessie Reineck (Sr. - Greenville,WI/Fox Valley Lutheran) and Jess Rupnow (Sr. – Sussex, WI/Sussex-Hamilton) began the day for the Blugolds in the 400 meter dash. Up against a stacked field, they finished ninth and 13th respectively with times of 56.74, a personal best for Reineck, and 57.61 for Rupnow.
Darin Lau (Jr. – Eau Claire, WI/Immanuel) and Nick Petersson (Sr. – Brookfield, WI/Brookfield Central) became All-Americans in the 5,000 meter run. The tension truly built in this race, but they both had smart races and finished fourth and sixth. Lau ran 14:28.81 and Petersson ran 14:31.32.
The women's 4x400 meter relay of Reineck, Ashleigh Buergi (Jr. – Green Bay, WI/Bay Port), Claire Fischer (So. – Appleton, WI/North), and Rupnow advanced to tomorrow's final with a time of 3:52.06. The head into the final tomorrow ranked fourth.
The men's 4x400 meter relay team of Aaron Zmolek (Fr. – Holmen, WI), KJ Munn (Fr. – Bayport, MN/St. Croix Prep Academy), Brandon Christnovich (Jr. – Holmen, WI), and Jimmy Paske (Sr. – Minnetonka, MN/Hopkins) had a tough day, finishing tenth with a time of 3:21.90.
The men's distance medley relay (Kyler Lueck (Fr. – Germantown, WI/Wisconsin Lutheran), Hunter Henk (Fr. – Beldenville, WI/River Falls), Ryan Graham (Sr. – Maple Grove, MN), and Matt Cooper (Sr. – Ashwaubenon, WI)) will go down as one of the most historic races in Blugold history, and it had nothing to do with the place or time. Senior Ryan Graham got tangled in the baton exchange with teammate Hunter Henk, and dislocated his left shoulder in the first few steps of the 800 leg of the DMR. Graham continued to run in agony, with his arm dangling, until he popped it back into place after about 150 meters. He went on to split one of his best times ever, and along with some great races from the rest of his teammates, the DMR are All-Americans, finishing in fourth place with a time of 10:00.73.
Graham was the only All-American returner, and National Champion, on the relay. For Lueck, Henk, and Cooper, it was each of their first All-American honors. Graham undoubtedly put the team on his shoulders, and gave one of the most moving performances that the crowd had ever or will ever experience. It was an unforgettable moment for coaches, teammates, and fans alike. It helped to reinvigorated the team, who still have a few events left on Saturday. Competition begins at 10:00 am on Saturday.