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Track & field burns through Chicagoland Championships

Jacob Berent

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The Blue Demons of the DePaul men’s and women’s track teams proved they were the elite among the local competition at the Chicagoland Championships April 5-6.

As Bob Seger played “Against the Wind” at the United Center Saturday night, the Blue Demons had their own gales to overcome en route to an overall points championship at the meet.

“It was a very windy day,” said 400m individual winner Mac Melto, a freshman. “We knew we were fast, and we just wanted to represent the best Chicago school there is.”

Despite tough weather conditions, six individuals and four relay teams placed first in their respective races, as the Blue Demons blew the competition away.

“We won our 4×100 and broke the record for that, and I won the 100m individual,” said Tayler Whittler, a freshman sprinter. “Our record didn’t count because there was a hard wind at our back. The 200m, even with the wind coming at my face, I ran well and won that race too.”

Whittler’s two individual wins, combined with first place finishes by Jackie Kasal in the 1500m, Erin McCoy in the 400m hurdles and the 4x800m relay team, led the women’s team to the top spot at the end of the night.

Not to be outdone, the men’s team had three individual heat winners: Alex Fisher in the 110m hurdles, Melto in the 400m and Brandon Threats in the 200m. They also gained relay victories in the 4×100 and 4×800.

Head coach Dave Dopek attributed the dominating performance to a strong team bond,

but emphasized that it runs much deeper than that.

“We’re a family here,” said Dopek. “That’s what helps people run faster. You’re not just out there running by yourself. You’re out there running with your team, your family.”

Dopek would know. He’s been part of the DePaul family since 1991. After becoming DePaul’s first ever NCAA Track & Field Champion, Dopek joined the coaching staff and is currently in his third season as head coach. He’s already helped build a program small in size, but large in talent and togetherness. The promising, young team is off to a good start thus far during this outdoor track season. Four of the six individual winners at the meet are only freshmen, and Dopek has a good recruiting class already committed to DePaul for next season.

“I bring athletes in on a recruiting visit, I make sure they know what they’re getting into,” said Dopek. “You’re not just going to be part of an athletic program, not just part of a team, but part of the family.”

And it’s the athletes themselves who help cultivate this harmony, each one bringing something unique to the table.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a thrower, distance runner, sprinter. Here everyone is equal,” said Melto. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the best or the worst, everyone supports everyone.”

After the weekend’s victories, Threats understands how the team cohesion is of the utmost importance in what is seemingly an individualized sport.

“Everybody’s a character,” said Threats. “Everybody plays a role. Everybody is a piece of the puzzle, and the puzzle is just now starting to become attached.”

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The Student News Site of DePaul University
Track & field burns through Chicagoland Championships