Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
On Dec. 1 at the Watson and Tressel Training Site in Youngstown, Ohio, the Duquesne women’s track & field team began its 2017-18 indoor season at the Youngstown State Icebreaker.
In the team’s only competition versus another Division I opponent before Christmas break, the Dukes notched five first-place finishes, including three by Bethany Evankovich and two by fellow sophomore Maiah Yankello, who is Evankovich’s great friend and roommate on campus.
Evankovich won the 200-yard (25.17) and the 400-yard dashes (56.35) while also contributing to a victorious Duquesne 4×400 meter relay team also consisting of Yankello, Gabby Holmberg and Kel-Lisa Sebwe. The relay team won the race with a time of 3:51.64.
On top of her contributions to the 4×400 meter relay squad, Yankello, of Center Township, Pennsylvania, posted a winning time of 2:14.54 in the 800-meter run, an event that Yankello said her coaches have started to feature her increasingly more in lately.
“Recently, [the coaches] have me moving up to 800 indoors, which is a little different, but just running it [this] past [weekend at Youngstown State], it wasn’t that bad,” Yankello said. “It was kind of fun, it was kind of exciting, so we’ll see. But it hurts a lot,” she laughed.
The 4×400 meter relay, on the other hand, is probably one of Yankello’s most cherished events.
“I really like the 4×4 relay. That’s always really fun — it kind of sucks, because it’s at the end, but it’s always the most exciting one,” Yankello remarked. “I’ve always liked the 400 hurdles too, because in high school, … [hurdles were] like my main thing.”
Only in her second year as a student at Duquesne, Yankello has been able to adjust to life as a collegiate athlete seemingly prosperously. A marketing and information systems double major, Yankello sees herself continuing to pursue running for as long as it will take her.
“Every runner always has a slight hope that one day they’ll go professional and be in the Olympics or something, but realistically I think … I don’t know.
“My one teacher talks to me, and she’s done [analytical] research for Twitter and stuff like that, so something [of that nature] interests me, as well,” the former WPIAL stand out remarked.
Whether or not it’s running that is paying the bills for Yankello in the future, one thing’s for sure: the expectations of Maiah’s parents have already been surpassed.
“At first, I was really big into softball [when I was younger], so I thought I was going to go to school for that, and then I ended up running and I liked it a lot better,” Yankello said. “I kind of dropped [softball] and started running. I think I gave my parents a heart attack, because we didn’t really think that a whole lot would come out of [running].
“Then, after my junior year, I really wanted to go to school for track, and I ended up tearing my ACL,” Yankello said. “After I tore it, I just worked really, really hard, and I came back my senior year and just had some really good times.”
Duquesne track & field coach Jim Lear took notice, recruiting Yankello to her future home on the Bluff.
“Duquesne is a Division I program, so them looking at me was really big for me. It was in the city, which I also really liked, because I like city life,” Yankello said of her thought process before committing to the Dukes.
“I looked over how well [the] program did in the conference and their records and stuff, and I thought that it was definitely challenging enough, but it was something I could work toward, so that was where it was appealing,” Yankello continued.
“And, when I first met coach Lear, I really liked him.”
Now, after switching sports, overcoming doubts and fully recovering from a torn ACL, the sophomore is eager to return for the spring semester, when the women’s track & field indoor season will kick into full gear.
Coming off of a second-place finish at the 2017 A-10 women’s track & field outdoor championship this past spring, Yankello is confident that her team is prepared to begin the indoor season strong with the potential to compete within the conference, just like it did last season.
“We are a really, really young team, but we’re also very, very talented … I think there’s really big things to come, and if everybody stays healthy, I think we can definitely compete,” she said.
Yankello and roommate Bethany Evankovich will undoubtedly play a vital role in how Duquesne’s indoor season plays out. Whether or not Duquesne is able to capture its first A-10 conference title in either indoor or outdoor competition this season, one much less quantifiable thing is for certain: The bond shared amongst the team will only continue to grow tighter and tighter as time goes on, which Yankello described as a key benefit.
She described the relationships that she has been able to form at Duquesne through track & field as the best thing about her experience.
“Eventually, you form a super tight bond, because you go through hell and back together,” she said.
“So you really get to know everybody, and they become your best friends.”