FORT WAYNE – As much as he would relish it, IPFW track coach Mike Fruchey doesn’t see his team owning a home-track advantage for this weekend’s Summit League Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Even though the Mastodons are still in the formative years of their track program (they have a limited-sized women’s team and are yet to field a men’s team), IPFW, with its shining new Athletics Center facility, will serve as host for the conference’s indoor meet that begins at 9:30 a.m. Friday and concludes Saturday afternoon.
I think (the other Summit League teams) will be jealous, for sure, Fruchey said.
Ron Clark, assistant athletic director of facilities and operations, who will serve as the championships manager, estimated that 400 to 450 athletes from the Summit League will participate. Because IPFW will not have a men’s team and IUPUI will not send any team, nine women’s teams and eight men’s teams will be represented.
It’s great for IPFW, with the new facility, to be able to host this kind of event this early, Clark said. We just took possession of the building in November, and we’re already slated to host the conference championships this year, and we’re co-hosting it next year with Oakland. We’ll use our facility.
IPFW recently completed a $42.4 million project that included the renovation of the Hilliard Gates Center. But the centerpiece is the 173,000-square-foot indoor fieldhouse that includes a 200-meter, six-lane Mondo rubber track – the same surface used in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Clark said IPFW is planning seating for more than 500 spectators.
We’ll have good seating for everyone, Clark said. The way the facility is set up, there aren’t bad seats no matter where you are.
Fruchey said defending champion North Dakota State is the favorite to win again this weekend but could get competition from Southern Utah and Oral Roberts. Although other teams can have as many as 24 on their rosters, Fruchey said IPFW will have 16 women compete.
We don’t have the volume of talent those schools can stockpile, Fruchey said. We’re hoping to get PRs (personal records), like we always do, and try to break some school records.
Probably our best chance to be all-conference, which is top three, is our distance medley relay, which is Friday night.
Kayla Boyes will open with the 1,200-meter run, Kaylin Taylor will run 400 meters, Julie Jeszensky will run the 800 and Sarah Hutchings will run the fourth leg with the 1,600.
Put their times together, and they have a chance to be in the top three, Fruchey said.