Analysis: Indoor track and field expectations


Graphic by Maliah White

USI track and field hits the track in their first Division I indoor season today and tomorrow.

Quinton Watt, Sports Editor

The indoor track and field teams are coming together to close a historical Division I season before the Ohio Valley Conference Championships begin Wednesday.

Returning from a strong cross-country season, the men’s and women’s teams have shown progress between each meet leading up to the final indoor meet of the season.

On the men’s side, the team hit a bit of a rut in finishing at the PNC Bank Bellarmine Classic Feb 3. They finished 11th with only eleven points. However, at the Bellarmine Open Jan. 30, they pulled an eight despite missing finishers in the 60m, 60m hurdles, the 4×400 relay, pole vault, triple jump and weight throw.

Since this was a meet very early in the season, the team was probably getting their legs warm. In track and field, the planning is weighted more for the final meets of the season. This ultimately prepares the athletes to hit their peak when it matters most.

The team placed second with 59 points Feb. 18 at the Indiana State University Open. The meet from this past weekend gives them a six-day rest period before the biggest event of the indoor season. 

My prediction for the indoor track and field teams is that they will go big at the indoor meet between the men and the women.

The other side features the women’s team who have pretty much done just as well as the men’s team, but I think individually they’ll be scoring bigger. 

In the Bellarmine Open, they finished third with 63 total points, while in the PNC Bellarmine Classic, they finished 11th and in the ISU Open they finished second.

These meets were nearly identical in team performances. As always, head coach Mike Hillyard continues to show coaching perfection moving into DI. 

Team performance is one thing in track and field, but a focal point is typically on individual athletes and improving themselves. I think USI will have plenty of people hitting their personal records. 

Single-athlete performance will definitely depend on which event the athletes end up running in the championships. Track and field is a sport where people can sometimes plug into an event they normally don’t run just to get some extra practice in.

You might see this when athletes are looking to practice a specific pace at what is considered “race pace.” Race pace is a part of a running workout that you don’t work on all the time. It’s essentially maxing out the workout. You only want to work it every so often.

This can make it tricky in these predictions with not knowing what events some athletes might decide to run. Taking this into account, I’m basing this list off of performances throughout this indoor track and field season.

Here are some predictions:



Noah Hufnagel, senior distance: 

It’s no secret at this point that Hufnagel is good at running. Hitting a peak of about 115 miles in a week to train in the offseason, Hufnagel came into the DI academic year strong by winning the cross-country OVC Championships in fall 2022.

So far, we’ve seen Hufnagel mainly run in the mile and the 3K. When I spoke with him before his championship run, he said he might be expected to run the 5K indoors as well. His best for the mile was a 4:15.98 at the Bellarmine Open. On the other hand, he placed third with 8:13.32 in the 3K.

He finished fourth in the 5K at the GLVC Championships in 2022. Amping up the competition has proved to be no struggle for Hufnagel. 

The only thing standing in front of him is himself, but we’ve seen his discipline and I think whatever he runs, he has an extremely strong chance to win. He’s gonna kill it.


Kyle Crone, junior jumps:

Kyle Crone jumps far, jumps high and jumps consistently. That’s something to watch out for coming into championship week. Crone will get points on the board for the team.

Being the only jumper on the team, Crone participates in the high jump, the long jump and the triple jump. Crone has peaked at third in every event during this indoor season.

He’s going to be a guy to help get points with strong jumps. This season, he’s cleared 1.93 meters in the high jump, 6.63 meters in the long jump and 43’ 4.5” triple jump.

I’d say keep your eyes on Crone. The guy represents USI as the only jumper very well.


Mitchell Hopf, junior distance:

Hopf has had a strong indoor season in the 3K. Coming off a solid cross country season by leading the team with Hufnagel, Hopf has finished top five in every 3K race this season.

In the Bellarmine Open, Hopf ran 8:27.06, and the next meet improved by ten seconds finishing 8:17.19. Like I said, times are expected to gradually improve as the season progresses, but that’s a huge improvement within a few weeks.

Hopf is another one of those guys who’ll get points on the board guaranteed. I expect him to be a top five finisher in this meet as well.



McKenna Cavanaugh, junior distance:

Cavanaugh has had a tremendous season. Breaking multiple school records and now PRs in the indoor season, I fully expect her to win both events in the 800m and the mile.

Running a 4:49.72 mile, Cavanaugh has yet to drop from first place in the event. She will win the mile, and I’ll bet money on it.

She’s ran the 800m once this year and finished second. It might not be her main event, but to just jump into something and get second? That’s ridiculous. I doubt she’ll run this in the championships, but if she does, I’d also expect it to be a blowout.


Lauren Greiwe, junior distance:

Greiwe and Cavanaugh have formed a great duo for USI. The two have both held top spots in their respective events.

My assumption is Greiwe will run the 3000m. She ran 10:11.97 at the Bellarmine Open, ultimately winning. 

She was also a part of the INVITE group at PNC Bank Bellarmine Classic where she placed eighth running 10:08.01. 

Greiwe will finish top three unless something drastic happens.


Kara Martin, senior distance:

On the girls side, Martin will be a consistent point-getter. In every event she’s a part of, she is getting top five, so USI’s overall score will get anywhere from 4-6 points from her in each event.

She’ll be right on Cavanaugh’s tail in the mile, and I expect her to run the 800m. On paper and stats, I think this might be her strongest event. We’ll see today and Thursday what happens.

Martin is another easy top- five pick for me.

Within our conference, I believe USI will be a top- two team in indoor meets. The biggest issue I think is a strong Eastern Illinois University team who will be hungry for more after winning the OVC Cross Country Championships.

The track and field teams won’t slow down with the indoor championships. There’s a quick turnaround with outdoors starting March 17 at Bellarmine once again.For more on the schedule, click here.