PEORIA, Ill. -- The Bradley women's track and field team will open the 2013 indoor season by making the first of four trips to the state of Iowa Saturday for the Iowa Open.
Joining Bradley and Iowa in the non-scored meet will be Western Illinois, Loyola and Truman State. The day's competition is scheduled to start with the field events at 1 p.m., with running events slated to begin at 2:15 p.m. at the University of Iowa Recreation Building.
"We are excited to get the 2013 season rolling," Bradley head coach Marc Burns said. "It is always tough to know where everyone's fitness is at coming off of the holiday break. Training conditions are different for everyone as we have people from all over the midwest. I am confident that everyone has been working hard, but sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to get their track legs going. We will run most people in a couple of events this weekend and use it to shake the cobwebs off."
The Braves will send a 17-person contingent to compete in five events in the season-opening event. Helping highlight Saturday's action will be four-time all-conference runner Sarah McMahon (Colfax, Wis./Colfax). An all-region performer in cross country this past fall, McMahon will compete in both the 1,000 meters and the mile Saturday after winning the 3,000 meters at last year's New Year's Classic in Iowa City, Iowa.
"The opener this weekend at Iowa is the beginning of a great journey our program will take over the next six months," added Burns. "The schedule is set up for our top kids to compete against the nation's best and for great developmental opportunities for our younger athletes. We will compete at some fantastic indoor venues including Indiana, Notre Dame and Iowa State. This will prepare us well for the MVC Championships at Northern Iowa in late February."
McMahon will be running the 1,000 meters for the first time in her career and her 2012 season-best mile time is ninth among Bradley career-best times.
Sophomore Kyela Specht (Munster, Ind./Munster) is also expected to help highlight competition at the Iowa Open. In addition to joining McMahon in the 4x400 meter relay, Specht will run in the 1,000 meters after posting the top indoor mile time on the squad last year. Specht's 2012 season-best mile time of 5:02.25 is seventh among BU's career-best times.
Junior Cassie Lohmeier (East Peoria, Ill./East Peoria) and senior Emily Gustafson (East Peoria, Ill./East Peoria) will represent Bradley in the 3,000 meters. Lohmeier owns the fifth fastest (10:06.57) 3,000 meter time in school history.
Sophomore Taylor Johnson (Lincoln, Neb./Southeast) and a group of four freshmen will participate in the 600 meters and the Braves will have three teams in the 4x400 meter relay to conclude the day at approximately 6:15 p.m.
"The 4x400m relay will be set up as a team challenge and we will break the team up into 3 equal squads," stated Burns. "They get pretty fired up about beating each other so it should be fun to watch."
Following Saturday's meet at Iowa, Bradley will travel to Champaign, Ill. for the Illini Classic Saturday, Jan. 19.
"One of our goals for the outdoor season is to have representation at the NCAA Preliminary round in Austin, Texas in late May," Burns said. "In order for this to become a reality, we need to provide opportunities for the top end of our men's and women's teams to compete in races that will be deep and fast. We feel that the Stanford Invitational, Mt. Sac Relays, Drake Relays and the Billy Hayes Invitational will be great meets to achieve marks needed to make it to Austin. We are excited to see how our team develops throughout this indoor and outdoor season. The future is bright for the Braves and we are looking forward to continuing to assault the record books again this year."