Sprinting to the top: Track and Field Season Preview

Sophomore Max Wilhelm competes in the 60-meter hurdles during the 2023 Gladstein Invitational. Photo by Lauren Gdowski.

APRIL KIRTS | SPORTS REPORTER | akirts@butler.edu

As the Butler track and field teams prepare for the 2023 outdoor season, growing their athletes physically and mentally is among the top of the program’s priorities in order to continue their success.

Last season brought much success for Butler’s program, as the team ended their season with a ninth-place finish from Barry Keane who ran the 10,000-meter run in the NCAA Championships. Keane’s time of 28:19.94 was within a second of the eighth-place finisher for a First Team All-American spot. 

The 2022-23 indoor season has been going well for both the men’s and women’s track and field teams. Butler’s showed impressive results over the weekend at the IU Relays in Bloomington and the Illini Challenge in Champaign. 

Niki Ezeh, graduate student and multi-position athlete, claimed the top spot on the podium for the women’s indoor pentathlon at the Illini Challenge on Jan. 27 and 28. Keane placed second in the men’s 300-meter run while his teammate Jesse Hamlin broke the Butler 800-meter run record which was set in 2016.  

The transition from the indoor season to outdoor can be challenging for Butler’s team which is relatively small in comparison to their competitors. Assistant coach Robby Burns talked about difficulties they may face once they enter the outdoor season. 

“Outdoor, we’re at a disadvantage a little bit,” Burns said. “Not having as many throwers as many programs…keep punching above our weight, beating some teams that might have more resources than us or might have better opportunities to score team points.” 

Karmen Koch, a fifth-year pharmacy student and veteran of the team, has grown to appreciate the size of Butler’s program. 

“It’s nice to just have a small group that you can be so close with,” Koch said. 

She also mentioned the relationships that she has been able to build among her teammates and how it has made it a lot easier to foster a supportive environment.

Koch is excited to work with and help the younger runners continue to grow this season. She would consider this year a transition year for each athlete to grow individually and to have the team become closer. 

With 16 underclassmen athletes on the team, Koch’s main focus this season is to be the best teammate for them to look up to and learn from. Her main goals are to be present throughout the rest of her time here and be a resource for her teammates. 

“I’ve been around for a while, so I just wanted to be a good teammate and just have fun with it…” Koch said. 

In the outdoor conference championship, she will compete in the heptathlon with seven different events. Koch’s personal heptathlon PR is from her junior year.  She feels that this year she’s taking steps in the right direction to beat it. 

Koch is already making her way toward that goal. This past weekend, at the Illini Challenge, she earned a new season best in all five events she competed in. She is excited to return for her final season and work hard to improve upon her previous times. 

On the men’s side, Jack Elder, a junior finance and applied business technology double major, is excited to see how the team will continue to build upon their success from the last outdoor season and the indoor season. 

By focusing on staying healthy for the outdoor season, Elder plans to use the knowledge he gained in his first two years in order to achieve his goals of breaking some school and personal records.

Elder started off well with an impressive showing at the IU Relays on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28, finishing in seventh place in the men’s heptathlon for Elder. Elder knows that improvement for himself and his team is a goal that can be reached this season.

“[Our goal is] to finish as a team and in ways that we haven’t in the past,” Elder said. “I know we were close in the last couple of years to getting some top-three finishes. And I think if we can attain that this year, that’d be pretty admirable.”

To find athletes like Koch and Elder who are always striving to improve and succeed, it starts with an emphasis on recruiting. The coaches are working hard to find athletes that will fit in with the atmosphere of the team and work hard to make the team successful. Burns emphasized that they look for the best possible athlete and also someone who fits into Butler University’s higher education expectations. 

“We pursue student-athletes that want to be excellent and want to excel in the classroom,” Burns said. “And then I think oftentimes, that carries over to their ambitions in track and field as well. So, just looking for that right mold of a person that’s looking for development, looking for high-class development.”

Cross country and track and field held the No. 1 and No. 2 spots for Butler Athletics team GPA in the fall 2022 season. The coaching staff looks for potential recruits that have the drive to excel in the classroom. They are looking for well-rounded student-athletes that will work hard in both aspects. 

The track and field team will end their indoor season on Feb. 24 and 25 at the Big East Indoor Championship before transitioning to their outdoor season. Butler’s outdoor season officially begins on Mar. 17 during the Blizzard Buster at Miami University.


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