Ripon College coaching staff also won coaching staff of the year for second year in a row
By Dorian Phillips and Jeremy Saloun*
For the second consecutive year, the Ripon College men’s and women’s track and field teams completed a sweep of the Midwest Conference Indoor Championships.
On the women’s side, the Red Hawks scored 161 points, well above second-place Monmouth, which finished with 115 points. On the men’s side, the Red Hawks finished with a school record of 193 points scored at the conference meet, followed by Monmouth College with 120 points.
Together, the men’s and women’s track and field teams tallied 31 first-place medals, 13 second-place medals, and five third-place medals and combined for 16 first-place finishes, nine second-place finishes, and five third-place finishes.
Of the 16 first-place finishes, five came from the relays. Four of them were sweeps of the Sprint Medley Relays and Distance Medley Relays, while the women’s 1,600-meter relay earned their third straight win in the event at the conference meet.
Along with their success in the relays, the men’s track and field team completed their first-ever sweep of an individual event. Dameco Walker, Cade Gray, and Ben Fisher finished first, second, and third, respectively, in the triple jump.
With their second-consecutive Midwest Conference Indoor Championship, the Ripon College coaching staff repeated as the Midwest Conference Staff of the Year.
Along with the team titles, the Red Hawks brought home several individual accolades.
First-year Olivia Miller was named women’s indoor track and field “Newcomer of the Year” by the Midwest Conference.
“Being awarded this makes me feel really good and I am really honored as the past year recovering from an ACL surgery and this year has been full of ups and downs and overcoming obstacles and seeing all my hard work pay off in many forms,” Miller said.
Miller earned individual titles in the long jump and 200m dash and was also part of the Red Hawk’s winning 1600m relay team. Miller also finished second in the 60m hurdles and was a member of the Red Hawk’s fourth-place 800m relay.
Sophomore Cade Gray was named the Midwest Conference Outstanding Field Performer of the Year. Gray finished first in the pole vault, second in the long jump and triple jump, and fourth in the high jump at the Midwest Conference Indoor Championships.
Dameco Walker paced the men’s track and field team en route to being named meet MVP. Walker earned titles in the long jump and triple jump and was also a member of the first-place Sprint Medley relay. Walker also finished second in the 200m dash, third in the 400m dash, and was a member of the runner-up 1600m relay group.
Sophomore distance runners Jamar Thomas and Rain Villanueva were both extremely excited about the win due to all of their hard work during the season.
Thomas spoke on how well the team worked off of each other in their highs and lows.
“[My favorite part of indoor track was] how confident we were all season and how every meet felt like we were in control…,” Thomas said.
“For myself in particular I completed one race after a week of training and it was extremely tough. The seeds that were planted then, I was able to see grow throughout the season all the way to conference. Despite all of the seriousness and hardwork the season was a fun one and after everything the Ripon Red Hawks are the biggest bird.”
Villanueva spoke on his own behalf due to his personal placements at conference and how it felt to score for his team. “This year was special to me because I felt that I contributed to the team’s points and it was nice to defend our title. I performed very well, I came in seeded first for both the 800m and the mile and finished 1st for both. The mile was my biggest challenge since 2nd pace was seeded 1 second below me, and when he passed me with one lap to go I really had to dig deep to make sure I passed him back.”
Red Hawks on the National Stage
While on their road trip to win conference, the Red Hawks had four athletes qualify for nationals. Seniors Ben Fisher and Dameco Walker, sophomore Cade Gray, and First Year Olivia Miller all qualified for individual events.
Competing in the high jump, senior Ben Fisher was very excited to be on the big stage.
“It felt like a good sigh of relief because I did it the first time freshman year. Now I’m a senior so it’s been a hot minute since I’ve done it so it felt good to be back at it and a lot of hard work paid off,” he said.
Carrying him through his performance was the loss of his dog, Lucky.
“We put my dog down that I’ve had since I was in 2nd grade and it was the day before our alumni meet. My buddy Blake, who is a student here and I went to high school with, was trying to cheer me up and get me motivated saying ‘Let’s go! You gotta do it for him’ and ‘You gotta go crazy for him’ so I was like okay I will. [A]t the alumni meet I wrote Lucky’s name down on the tape I was using for my mark for high jump and that was the day I qualified for nationals so I wrote his name down at nationals and I saw a lot of success,” Fisher said.
History in the making
While the Red Hawks bring home the first back-to-back track indoor championship, the Ripon seniors will experience their senior day as well as compete in the last dual track meet against Lawrence College hosted by the Red Hawks.
* Both Authors are members of the Ripon College Track and Field team