Women’s Track and Field Wins Third Straight NCAC Title


Photo courtesy of OC Athletics

Despite the departure of national champions Lilah Drafts-Johnson and Monique Newton, both OC ’18, the women’s track and field team proved they are no less dominant as they secured their third straight Indoor Track and Field North Coast Athletic Conference Championship Saturday.

For the past few years, Oberlin track and field stars like Lilah Drafts-Johnson, Ana Richardson, and Monique Newton — all OC ’18 — have been household names in the Oberlin athletic community. After two consecutive years of Indoor Track and Field North Coast Athletic Conference Championships, with individual accolades and accomplishments to match, it may seem unclear to outsiders whether or not the track and field team could continue this streak of success without their stars.

Nonetheless, when the women’s track and field team took home the first place trophy at Saturday’s NCAC Conference Championships at The College of Wooster — alongside the men’s team’s fourth-place grab, their best score in at least 15 years — the victory came to neither the athletes’ or the coaches’ surprise.

“The people who graduated were incredibly impactful for our past successes,” College senior and jumper Olivia Woods said. “But in a way, they left in somewhat of a timely manner. We have a lot of hardworking [first-years] and talented [upperclass students] right now, who now have the opportunity to blossom in a way they couldn’t before.”

Track and Field Head Coach Ray Appenheimer echoed Woods’ sentiment, saying that while competing in the footsteps of two national champions and a number of conference champions is daunting, his team embraced the challenge by supporting one another.

“People were nervous going in, and the team does look a lot different this year,” Appenheimer said. “But the nerves dissipate, because with the type of community we have, they can compete with no fear. They are loved, so they can be unafraid.”

The meet was filled with broken records and accomplishments, largely fueled by the team’s enthusiasm — including not only the athletes who qualified to compete, but also the remaining members of the team, who carpooled to Wooster to cheer on their teammates.

“People were loud and energized all day,” Appenheimer said. “They had their faces painted and were losing their voices … the energy was staggering.”

Of all the events, it may have been the triple jump, won by Woods, that was most emblematic of Oberlin’s success. Woods landed her best mark at 35-08.50, taking home first place for the Yeowomen and setting a personal lifetime record.

“Everyone was pushing themselves to [personal record] in the triple jump,” said College junior and thrower Naeisha McClain, who gave a nod to first-years Malaika Djungu-Sungu and Aesha Mokashi, who finished behind Woods and brought five additional points to the Oberlin scoresheet. “That event basically defined what the rest of the conference meet would be.”

Other successes on Oberlin’s list included first and third-place finishes in the women’s 3,000 meter dash by College senior Linnea Halsten and College sophomore Corrie Purcell — with times of 10:34.26 and 10:37.74, respectively — as well as a first-place win in the women’s 4×200 meter relay with a time of 1:47.29. On the men’s end, the 4×200 meter team broke the school record with a time of 1:31.50.

“This weekend’s meet was the first time the men’s team scored 80 points in almost 60 years,” College sophomore Adriano Atallah said. “We have a lot of [first-years] and [sophomores] really stepping up, and we’re only looking to go forward from here.”

The Yeomen and Yeowomen are already back on the track to prepare for the spring season, and they plan to use this winter’s remarkable victory to reap equal, if not even greater, success outdoors. Roster-wise, the team may have changed drastically between last year and now, but its record of success has only improved.

“This meet was … everything,” Appenheimer said. “This win wasn’t an accident. It was the culmination of days, weeks, and months of preparation. We’re using this victory every day in practice, because this is who we are every single day of the year.”

The outdoor season kicks off March 29 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, with the annual Bob Kahn Invitational taking place at Oberlin the following weekend.