Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Harper Track and Field Heads to Nationals

Harper track and field nationals preview 2
The men are looking for their sixth title in the last seven years. (Jim Cummins)
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Howard CC Official Website

Looking to bring back more hardware for an already illustrious program, the Harper College track and field teams departed this morning for the NJCAA Division III National Championships. The championships, which are hosted by Howard Community College, begin Thursday and run through Saturday.

On the men’s side, Harper will be seeking its third consecutive national championship and sixth in seven years. The men come into this year’s event ranked No. 2 in the national poll, behind only host Howard CC.

“Howard CC is the team to beat, and they are loaded with talent and depth,” head coach Renee Zellner said. “We will be prepared and just hope for no injuries.”

Andre Barnes (Mount Prospect, Ill., Prospect), a 400m All-American in 2012, feels the team’s biggest strength is a very competitive nature. Last year’s 800m champion Troy Cunningham (Elk Grove, Ill., Conant) agreed with Barnes and likes the team’s chances to emerge on top.

“If we do everything the way we did this year, we have a good chance to come out on top,” Cunningham said.

Luciano Laterza (Arlington Heights, Ill., Rolling Meadows), who will be throwing in the discus and hammer events, and Danny Lowry (Arlington Heights, Ill., Rolling Meadows), who is representing the team in discus, shot put, and hammer, both credit Zellner for their improved technique this season.

“Coach taught us a lot, and our technique is by far the best it’s been. Last year, our technique was sloppy,” Laterza said. “There’s tough competition, but we’re right there with them.”

Last year’s high jump champion Isaac Jean-Paul (Gurnee, Ill., Warren Township) is most looking forward to competing and having fun enjoying a chance at another national championship. He acknowledged that he and his teammates have dealt with injuries throughout the year, but they will be ready once the competition starts.

On the women’s side, Jordan Wagner (Schaumburg, Ill., Schaumburg) leads a strong group ranked No. 7 in the national poll and poised for another high finish at nationals after taking ninth place last year. In 2011, the Hawks captured the national championship, Harper’s only national championship in a women’s sport.

Wagner is currently ranked first in the 800m and feels prepared for nationals because she also went to cross country nationals, where she placed fifth and earned First Team All-America honors.

“I like how close and supportive we are as a team,” Wagner said. “These past two weeks, we’ve really stepped it up and are looking forward to continuing it at nationals.”

The teams practice on Wednesday before starting competition on Thursday. 

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