After a year away from the track, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field have rewritten the record books as both programs forge ahead toward their respective Atlantic 10 Championships next month.
Each program raced a five-meet regular season, breaking five GW records on the men’s side and five program records on the women’s side. After missing out on an outdoor track and field season last year, head coach Terry Weir said both programs are “grateful” to be competing again.
“As much as it starts to feel a little bit normal getting back out and competing again, it’s still fresh in our minds that we didn’t get to do this last year,” Weir said. “And so I think every athlete out there, for both of our teams, feels very grateful for this opportunity and they’re trying to take advantage of that.”
Sophomore Ryan Fowkes inked his name into the record books this season, running a 3:48.02 in the 1,500m at the Raleigh Relays March 25 to 27 in his GW debut. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2020 outdoor track and field season before it began, forcing Fowkes and his fellow sophomores to wait a year before competing on the collegiate outdoor track.
“Ryan Fowkes is running really well,” Weir said. “He’s one of the top milers in the A-10. His 1,500m loosely converts to about a 4.4 mile, and for a sophomore that’s fantastic.”
He kept his momentum at the team’s next race, the Towson Invite April 2 through 3, resetting the 800m school record. His 1:54.14t time was also good enough to place him atop the podium in the event. At the same competition, sophomore Miles Grant nabbed program-bests of 11.91 in the 100m dash and 6.83m in the long jump. His latter performance earned him third place.
Fowkes’ 800m school record did not survive long. Freshman William Gay’s 1:53.54 time rewrote the record books at the Mason Spring Invitational April 11. Weir said Gay is exceeding expectations as runners usually take about a year to get settled into GW’s systems.
Grant was back in the record-setting mix at the Hopkins/Loyola Invitational Saturday, earning a GW-best 1.90m in the high jump and a second-place finish at the competition.
Each record was broken by an underclassman, and 11 of the team’s 17 members are either freshmen or sophomores. Gay said the young core will not only produce a strong performance this season but also for seasons to come.
“I feel like we all have a lot of faith in each other and a lot of trust in each other,” Gay said. “We all rely on each other. I feel like if we’re going to spend three years together – for the sophomores and the freshmen – we’re going to be able to build a strong program in that time.”
The women’s side found equal success at smashing records this regular season. Senior Kathryn Nohilly started the team off with a program-best 2:14.22 in the 800m at the Towson Invite April 2 and 3. She had a podium appearance, finishing third.
Senior Brittany Wilkinson narrowly shattered the fresh record with a 2:13.79 run at the Mason Spring Invitational April 11.
“I think that’s true for pretty much every woman on the women’s team is when one of us succeeds, it’s all of us succeeding because we all sort of work for it together,” Nohilly said. “So it really means a lot. We’re always so happy to see each other do big things.”
But Nohilly’s name would not be removed from the record books. At the same meet, she earned another third-place finish with the fastest 1,500m in school history (4:28.83).
“That was kind of her really first open up 1,500m, and I know she’s probably going to go a lot quicker than that,” Weir said. “At 4.28 – and not a whole lot of people talk in terms of meters – but that’s about a 4.46 mile, 4.45 mile, and so I think it’s really a great start for her.”
Nohilly and Wilkinson were back in action and snatched more school records at the Virginia Challenge Friday and Hopkins/Loyola Invitational Saturday, respectively.
Nohilly paced the program with a 10:23.74 in the 3,000m steeplechase, earning her a top five finish at the Friday meet. She broke 2020-graduate and former NCAA steeplechase qualifier Suzanne Dannheim’s previous record of 10:23.95.
Graduate student Peri Pavicic and senior Margaret Coogan also gained experience Friday and Saturday in the 3,000m steeplechase, respectively, with Coogan nabbing first place in her debut at the Hopkins/Loyola Invitational. Weir said Nohilly will be focusing on the 3,000m steeplechase as her main event heading into the A-10 Championships.
“She’s going to be very good in the steeplechase and has a great shot of making NCAAs in that event,” he said. “And so does Peri also in the steeplechase. Both of them had great openers down in Raleigh.”
Wilkinson slashed the previous six-year-old 400m dash record by 1.19 seconds with a 59.85 finish, nabbing third place to cap the tenth GW record in 2021.
Looking ahead to the men’s and women’s A-10 Championships on May 1 and 2, Weir said the squads will remain focused on maintaining their momentum after finishing off the regular season Saturday.
“I’m just really kind of blown away by how our teams just handled everything here in the last year or so,” Weir said. “I think it’s a tribute to each of them leaning on each other, learning from each other, staying focused and really being grateful about the opportunities you have here.”
Both squads will take the track again at the A-10 Championships May 1 to 2.
Belle Long and Emily Maise contributed reporting.