DeKALB – Little things define a new track. The smell of a freshly-laid surface, sharp lines and, apparently, no worms in the steeplechase pit.
Northern Illinois held its first home track and field meet in 27 years on Saturday with the Huskie Open at
NIU’s new Track and Field and Soccer complex with Augustana. It was an event senior distance and steeplechase runner Meghan Ginter thought she would never see.
“I thought it would be after I graduated and I would be coming back to watch a home meet,” Ginter said. “But it was really nice.”
And, in an event as tough as the steeplechase, which Gitner won in 12:00.62, it was really nice not to see any creepy crawlers in the middle of her race.
“Actually, it was the cleanest pit I’ve ever seen,” Ginter said.
“It’s never been used before. There are no worms in there so it was actually really nice.”
Senior long jumper Shoshanna Brown said she was grateful to get the chance to participate in a meet on the home track once before she left NIU, and didn’t think it would happen until this season.
“I knew when I got here that we didn’t have an outdoor track but they kept telling me it was coming,”
Brown said. “My sophomore year I was like, ‘Yeah right.’ My junior year I was like ‘Sure.’ And then, my senior year, here it is. I’m glad that I got the chance to be able run on it.”
Brown won the triple jump after going 37 feet, 8.75 inches. She took fourth in the long jump with a leap of 17 feet, 6.25 inches. Junior Brittany Houghton won the event, going 18 feet, six inches. Haughton also won the 400-meter dash in 59.14 seconds.
NIU coach Connie Teaberry said the home track meet “was a long time coming,” and a process that with it’s completion, could boost recruiting for years to come.
“A place like this gets you some good recruits. That’s the bottom line,” Teaberry said. “We have an indoor season but track and field is an outdoor sport. There are a lot of high schools that have tracks and you have to be comparable, if not better, to the facilities that they already have.”
With the winner of every race officially becoming the stadium record holder in that event, everyone wanted to get in on the historic day, including NIU baseball coach Ed Mathey. Mathey jokingly called the day’s public address announcer, men’s basketball assistant coach Sundance Wicks, and reportedly said he wanted to get in on a race with assistant baseball coach Steve Joslyn before their game against Ball State so they could hold their own stadium records.
While the Mathey-Joslyn showdown never happened, the Huskies did get a chance to get some work in before the Mid-American Conference Outdoor Championships, which begin Thursday in Akron, Ohio.
“They looked good,” Teaberry said. “We’ve still got some fine tuning in the next couple of days and we’ve got to get our legs fresh again for conference next week but I was really pleased with the way they competed.
“This was awesome, to finally get the facility and in the same year host a track meet we are very, very grateful.”