DeKALB – Megan Gregory knows the looks. She’s seen them from other track teams.
They’re the looks that see Northern Illinois and say NIU isn’t going to be any competition. After all, NIU’s women’s track and field team had finished dead last in the Mid-American Conference indoor championships for four straight years before this season. The Huskies had only done a little better once the sport moved outdoors.
Gregory hasn’t seen those looks this season.
NIU already has broken 13 school records this season, with almost two months to go before the MAC outdoor championships. The Huskies had their highest finish in school history at MAC indoors with a seventh-place finish as well as the first two indoor MAC champions in school history in Gregory (60-meter hurdles) and Chanel Kellyman (60 dash).
“They’re not thinking they’re at ease when they’re running against the Huskies anymore,” Gregory said.
This is the fourth season the Huskies have had an on-campus outdoor track to compete on, and women’s track and field director Connie Teaberry says the combination of proper facilities and the bump it provided in recruiting are two major factors in a suddenly competitive track and field season.
“More than anything, in order to get great recruits, you have to have great facilities. You can’t have a high school that has better facilities than a college,” Teaberry said. “Now with the outdoor track, we’ve kind of surpassed that. We’ve got top athletes asking to come for official visits to NIU, so that’s been a huge, huge benefit.”
Janay Mitchell, a junior sprinter, has been a part of three school records this season, including a 24.07-second time in the 200 at a meet at Central Florida this past Saturday. Her goals include MAC outdoor titles in the 100 and 200, where she hopes to break another school record in the 200 by breaking 24 seconds.
She said a positive team atmosphere and a focus on time, rather than place, are major components of NIU’s improvement this season, but the chance to develop on an actual track surface plays a role.
“I heard they were running on pavement,” Mitchell said. “So to actually compete on a track, to get the grip and the feel of it, works out much better.”
Gregory said she wants to pick up where she left off indoors, win the 100 hurdles outside and advance to NCAA regionals.
With the way the season has progressed, and at least one school record falling at almost every meet, Gregory has seen a carryover effect from meet performances to practices.
“I think a lot of the teammates, including myself, see we have the potential, that we’re making it to where we want to be,” Gregory said. “We push each other more. We run hard at practice and we see the results at meets.”
Those results include other teams taking notice. Teaberry said she’s heard from coaches throughout the season making a point to compliment NIU’s improvement.
It’s a look Teaberry and the Huskies could get used to.
“It’s been positive for the girls, as far their training, their competitions, and a great confidence booster for them,” she said. “We’ve been really proud of them.”
NIU’s women’s track team already has broken 13 school records this season. They are:
Indoor 60 Meters: Chanel Kellyman, 7.47 60 Hurdles: Megan Gregory, 8.49 200 Meters: Kellyman, 24.37 300 Meters: Rasheta Butler, 40 400 Meters: Butler, 56.51 800 Meters: Rebecca Cronin, 2:10.43 1,000 Meters: Jamie Burr, 2:59.5 4x200 Relay: Kellyman, Mitchell, Frye, Butler; 1:40.23 4x400 Relay: Kellyman, McCalla, Julianne Cronin, R. Cronin; 3:47.74 Distance Medley Relay: Burr, J. Cronin, R. Cronin, Courtney Oldenburg; 11:42.28 Triple Jump: Jenner Sio, 39-01
Outdoor 200 Meters: Janay Mitchell, 24.07 4x100 Relay: Kellyman, Mitchell, Frye, Butler; 45.51