The Gonzaga women’s track team has shown great success in the early weeks of the 2019 season.
The team started off hot with several standout performances at its opening at Whitworth University on March 16. The Zags swept the top four spots in the 1,500-meter race led by Ally Legard. Legard’s time of 4 minutes, 42.86 seconds was good enough to place her seventh all-time in program history. Jordan McPhee’s first-place finish in the 800-meter race placed her just outside the top ten all-time with a time of 2:28.58.
As the season continues, many other runners are expected to get times to place highly in program history.
One of the newest additions to the team comes in a brand-new head coach, Jake Stewart. Stewart spent the last six years as the head coach of Illinois’s men’s cross country and has previous experience coaching women’s track and field.
Thus far, Stewart has been optimistic about what he’s seen this year.
“We are progressing through the season as best we can from week to week and really simplifying our goals,” Stewart said.
Stewart is excited for the upcoming meets on the schedule, in particular the competition at the Cardinal Classic hosted by Stanford, but also meets in the Pacific Northwest at Eastern Washington University and Oregon State University.
“Everything we have coming up is really positive,” Stewart said. “We have a bunch of opportunities to make some improvements.”
Assistant coach Steve Surface is excited to have Stewart on the team. He thinks the two of them mesh well and have very similar goals and aspirations for the season.
“Jake Stewart is good, he’s forceful, he wants to win,” Surface said.
The runners are also geared up to see what Stewart will bring to the team.
“Not that there’s anything different, but there’s a more positive attitude that gets everyone really excited to continue to do well and make big improvements,” senior Amanda Kiefer said.
Along with coaching changes, several new recruits have also come in and made big strides for the team. One runner is freshman Morgan Greene.
Greene showed incredible progress during the cross country and indoor track season, culminating in her running the second-fastest 400-meter time in program history at 1:01.08 during the final meet of the indoor season. In her first outdoor meet, she ran the eighth-fastest outdoor 400-meter race in 1:01.35.
“She has a great attitude, she prepares well,” Stewart said. “She likes to run a lot of events and we’re trying to figure out where she fits best.”
The team left a lasting mark when it traveled to San Francisco for a meet at San Francisco State on March 28 and 29.
“We took nine athletes down and got nine [personal records] … It was a big improvement for us” senior Monica Ripple said. “We had several top-10 additions, which is exciting for our women’s program.”
She said this is just the beginning for the team and that it will see improvements in individual’s times and the number of athletes competing at a high level throughout the season.
The team hits the track again this Saturday at Eastern Washington University for the Pelleur Invitational.