Newton, Drafts-Johnson Lead Team to NCAC Championship


Photo courtesy of OC Athletics

Senior Lilah Drafts-Johnson turns the corner in the Bob Kahn Invitational April 7. The women’s track and field team won their second consecutive NCAC Outdoor Championship Saturday.

Many words have been used to describe the women’s track and field team: victorious, dominant, and inspiring are a few key examples. One word that is not in the team’s vocabulary is complacent. The team won its second straight North Coast Athletic Conference Outdoor Championship with a total of 228 points Saturday, a few months after winning its second consecutive Indoor Championship. A number of Yeowomen had career-best performances during the two-day contest.

Head Coach Ray Appenheimer, who was named the NCAC Coach of the Year, said that the team’s success can be attributed to the team’s culture and that of Oberlin in general.

“People … chose to come here because they wanted to be challenged to be better — to be their best selves,” Appenheimer said. “What’s so cool is that not only do people want to be challenged, but they want to challenge the people around them to be their best as well. When you have an environment where everyone sets the bar so high — where everyone is challenging one another to be the best athletes and the best teammates they can be — you have a culture where success is almost always assured.”

Seniors Monique Newton and Lilah Drafts-Johnson led the way to victory, earning NCAC Field Athlete of the Year and NCAC Sprints/Hurdles Athlete of the Year, respectively. The pair has dominated competition all year, seemingly improving their marks every single meet.

Before the season began, Newton said that her motivation levels were higher than ever, despite becoming Oberlin’s first female national champion last year.

“Last year was probably the best year the track and field program has ever had, but we can even take it a step further — especially the senior class,” Newton said. “We’ve seen the program really transform the last three years, and we want to make this year the best year yet to complete the transformation.”

Newton was in her usual great form last weekend, winning the hammer throw, the shot put, and the discus. In the hammer throw, Newton earned a mark of 169-05.00 feet. She tossed the shot put 47-06.25 feet, which is a season-best for her, ranking third in all of Division III. Newton had her best performance of the weekend on day two, when she threw the discus 160- 03.00, which broke the conference and school record and was six feet over her previous season-best.

However, Newton said she doesn’t want her achievements to outshine her teammates’.

“I really do think we have the best female throwers unit in the country, which means [that] every day I’m practicing with an amazing group, and it’s fun,” Newton said. “It’s fun when we go to meets and one of us hits a big throw. It makes the rest of us want to hit a big throw and keep the momentum going. We feed off of each other.”

Sophomore Jasmine Keegan placed third in the shot put with a throw of 39-01.25, and senior Ana Richardson came in fourth with a throw of 38-04.75. In the hammer throw, Keegan came in second place with a toss of 152-06.00, and sophomore Cecelia Longo picked up six points with a toss of 134-06.00. In the discus, Keegan came in second, Richardson came in fourth, sophomore Maya English came in fifth, and sophomore Naeisha McClain placed eighth.

Drafts-Johnson led the way on the track, winning both the 200- and 400-meter sprints. She finished the 400-meter dash in 58.12 seconds and the 200-meter dash in 25.25 seconds. Drafts-Johnson was the top qualifier in the 200-meter after finally breaking the school record in the event on day one with a time of 25.12. However, Drafts-Johnson said she isn’t satisfied.

“What’s nice about track is that there is always room for improvement, and even if you beat everyone in your race, there’s always another time or personal best mark you can chase after,” Drafts-Johnson said. “I’m motivated because I think I can still improve on my times, and I’m excited to see what my body can do.”

Sophomore Jillian Doane was right behind Drafts-Johnson in the 400-meter, finishing in a career-best 59.12 seconds to earn the team a total of 18 points in the event. In the 100-meter dash, Cook-Gist came in second with a time of 12.71, which was just 23 hundredths of a second behind the first-place finisher. She also finished fourth in the 200-meter with a time of 26.08.

The Yeowomen’s distance runners also had an impressive showing over the weekend. Sophomore Oona Jung-Beeman earned all-conference honors in the 800-meter with a time of 2:20.34. In the 1,500-meter run, sophomore Marija Crook finished second with a time of 4:39.84. She also came in second in the 5,000-meter with a time of 18:37.12. First-year Corrie Purcell earned her first all-conference honor by finishing the race with a career-best time of 18:39.23.

Both relay teams earned all-conference honors. In the 4×100-meter relay, Doane, Drafts-Johnson, and juniors Imani Cook-Gist and Emily Kelly earned second place with a time of 48.58. The 4×400 relay team of Doane, Jung-Beeman, sophomore Shannon Wargo, and Cook-Gist crossed the line in 4:06.52, good enough for third place.

Appenheimer said he was impressed by how many of his athletes stepped up this past weekend.

“So many people contribute to this success in so many ways,” Appenheimer said. “Folks you don’t hear much about, like Corrie Purcell, Jasmine Keegan, and Christine Impara all competed so hard and trained so diligently. Having spent so much time with Mo, Ana, and Lilah, I know how much they value and feed off the contribution and hard work of their teammates.”