Outdoor Track Hosts Spring Classic; Four At Mt. SAC
ALBANY, N.Y. – The 2015 indoor season came and went without the University at Albany track & field program hosting its annual Great Dane Classic at the Armory in New York City. While not technically a home meet, the Classic acted as UAlbany’s contribution to the sport, and allowed the Great Danes the opportunity to play host despite not having an indoor facility on campus capable of running such an event.
“Home meets are good, because you get to compete with the support of your friends, roommates, and the university community, which is something we haven’t had since the cross country season,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives. “And especially since we’re hosting conference championships this year, it is good for the student-athletes to go through that once before championships.”
“Additionally,” Vives continued, “it is good to compete on your own facility. Yes, they have been training on it for some time now, but training and competing are two different things.”
Since the program did not hold its indoor invitational this season, there have been no home events since the cross country invitational last October. This weekend’s Spring Classic will mark the home event since the cross country invitational, and the first collegiate track event hosted by the Great Danes since last year’s Purple & Gold Last Chance Meet.
“This is our first home meet of the track season and I think our kids are excited for that,” said Vives. “It’s a non-scoring meet, so there’s no pressure on the student-athletes. It’s about seeing where they are, and allowing them the opportunity to get closer to their goals.”
Originally, the 2015 home opener was scheduled to be a dual meet at the end of March featuring a handful of schools. Due to inclement weather, that meet was cancelled and the home events would start with this weekend’s Spring Classic.
“We set up the dual meet to provide an opportunity for everyone on the team to have a competition that weekend,” Vives said. “Some of the student-athletes were going to be traveling that weekend to the Raleigh Relays, so the dual meet was designed for everyone else who stayed home.”
Last year, the Spring Classic was a single-day affair. This year, the coaching staff has decided to expand the meet to encompass two days. This allows for the inclusion of the men’s decathlon and the women’s heptathlon, as well as greater flexibility in the schedule of events.
“With the move to two days we’re trying to make the meet all-inclusive,” said Vives. “We’re trying to include all of the NCAA events, particularly the mutlis. There aren’t a lot of opportunities to run those in the Northeast this time of year, yet many athletes want to go through the full slate of events before their conference meet, so we wanted to provide them with that opportunity.”
“Additionally, a two-day meet allows for us to split the throwing events,” Vives continued. “Some student-athletes may compete in three of the four throwing events at a meet, and that is a lot of throws for a single day. We can now split that up so their workload covers two days instead of one. Beyond the throws, we have greater control over the scheduling as a whole, so we can hopefully avoid situations where the track events end but there are still field events that haven’t yet started. And finally, the two-day format affords the student-athletes the opportunity to get used to championship competition, which will take place over two days as well.”
This weekend is the second in a line of six consecutive weekends in which the Great Danes will compete, culminating with IC4A and ECAC Championships in May. While such a schedule would normally place certain travel-related stress on student-athletes, the next four meets, including this weekend, will be contested in the Capital District. Next weekend, most of the team will travel to RPI, while a smaller selection will attend the Penn Relays. The week after, UAlbany will host the America East Outdoor Championships. The week after that, UAlbany will host its Last Chance Meet.
“This time of year we start to see added stress on the student-athletes with finals, papers, internships, getting hours in, and things like that, as the semester starts to wind down,” said Vives. “Staying close to home helps to relieve that stress, because they can compete and then go back to their rooms immediately. When we travel, they risk falling behind because they have to miss time to get to the meet site and back. For that reason, we will condense the Penn Relays trip as much as possible, to limit the amount of time the student-athletes are away.”
“We travel early in the season to find better weather,” Vives continued. “It is not as necessary now with the weather starting to break.”
Looking at the entries, many of the student-athletes will be competing in secondary events, a designed move by coaching staff to address a number of issues.
“If you do your primary event every week you risk getting stale,” said Vives. “So we change it up a bit, dropping athletes down or bumping them up in distance to work on different things. We also need them to be able to compete in off events, because we may need them to do so at conference championships.”
“An exception is the 400 hurdles,” Vives continued, “because there are not many opportunities to run that before conference championships. With some of the open events, you can get similar work in with relays, but that isn’t the case with the 400 hurdles.”
“As for our relays,” Vives concluded, “we’ll be splitting them this weekend, running them kind of half-stacked. The idea is to develop additional bodies we can add to the relay pool, to see who else can step up and fill a spot if we need to. The 4x100 for example, is solid for the men, but we’re still experimenting with the women.”
Finally, Coach Vives hopes this weekend’s meet can be a first step in building something greater for the program going forward, both in the near-term and the long-term.
“This weekend’s meet used to be bigger, before we missed a few years while our new facility was under construction. We’d like to keep growing the meet, and increase its quality. I think that will happen as the performances start to come in. For our student-athletes, this meet is an opportunity to showcase what great ambassadors they are for the university. It’s important to run and present a quality meet, and act as a good host.”
“Beyond that,” Vives continued, “I’m hoping the student-athletes can improve on their individual performances, and stay healthy. This is the last all-together team preparation meet before conference championships, so it’s almost like a dress rehearsal in that regard.”
Elsewhere, four members of the women’s team will compete in the Mt. SAC Relays at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California. Three student-athletes, Valentina Talevi, Molly Pezzulo, and Jessica Donohue, will compete in the women’s collegiate 10,000, scheduled for 11:15 p.m. PST on Thursday.
“Early-season 10,000s are not always conducive to the Northeast, which is one reason we had to eliminate the event from the Spring Classic,” said Vives. “Mt. SAC has great fields and good competition. The meet has proven successful for our program in the past. Our school record in the 10,000 was set at this meet.”
“It’s good to run this race before conference championships,” Vives continued. “And since conference championships are still a few weeks out, it allows for a full recovery before they have to run it again.”
Also making the trip was Briana Cherry-Bronson, who will be competing in the women’s open hammer throw, scheduled for 2:00 p.m. PST on Friday.
“With Briana, we want to get her used to the level of competition she will see late in the season,” said Vives. “We want her to be in meets where he has to be competitive, where she has to compete with the top people in her event. It’s important to give her that type of experience.”
The Spring Classic kicks off Friday, April 17 at 12:00 p.m. with the first events of the men’s decathlon and the women’s heptathlon. Also competing on Friday will be the hammer throw and the javelin. Saturday’s events begin at 10:00 a.m. with the continuation of the multis events, as well as the men’s discus. Track events begin at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday with the 5,000.