By Matt Crump

The Colonels’ track and field team started its outdoor season last weekend at the Raleigh Relays, held at Paul Derr track at North Carolina State University.

The event had more than 2,000 collegiate and high school athletes from nearly 80 schools and running clubs, making the meet one of the largest held annually in the country.

Senior Picoty Leitich led Eastern’s women’s team by breaking the school’s record in the women’s 800 meters with a time of 2:06.04 and junior Soufiane Bouchikhi led the men, getting second place in the men’s 5,000 meters with an outdoor personal best time of 13:50.64.

Leitich finished fourth in the women’s 800 meters with a time of 2:06.04, barely passing the previous record of 2:06.19 set by Jamie King in 1999. Leitich also broke the women’s indoor 800 meters school record at the beginning of March.

Other notable women runners for Eastern were senior Jackline Barkechir, who won her heat of the women’s 1,500 meters with a personal best time of 4:39.19, edging past a Duke runner by .90 seconds, and freshman Ann Eason, who finished 13th in the second heat of the women’s 5,000 meters with a time of 17:21.94.

On the men’s side, Soufiane Bouchikhi finished second overall in the men’s 5,000 meters with an outdoor personal best time of 13:50.64, Eastern’s second fastest outdoor time. He was beat by a Virginia Tech runner by .69 seconds. Bouchikhi was joined in the men’s 5,000 by fellow Colonels, senior Ben Cheruiyot, who placed 12th in the first heat with a time of 14:15.89, and sophomore Ben Torotich, who won the third heat with a time of 14:20.51.

“It was a good race,” Bouchikhi said about the men’s 5,000 meters race in an interview with Flotrack. “I wanted to kick a little earlier, at like 400 to go. I wasn’t too confident about it. You don’t know if you can hold all 400 with a sprint.

Senior Alex Dreyer ran the men’s 10,000 meters and placed seventh out of 39 with a personal best time of 30:55.59.

Eastern’s men’s four by 1,500 meter relay team ran Saturday and placed second, with only Duke beating them. The team consisted of Bouchikhi, Cheruiyot, Torotich and freshman Thijs Nijhuis, finishing with a time of 15:45.00.

Eastern’s track and field team returns to the track Friday, April 6, at the Centre College Invitational.