Track Splits For Final Weekend Before Championships
ALBANY, N.Y. – Championship season arrives in two weeks and the University at Albany track & field program arrives at its final competition weekend before turning its attention to the postseason. A handful of Great Danes this weekend will visit Arkansas for their second consecutive trip to the Tyson Invitational, while the remainder of the team returns for the last time to Ocean Breeze for the Fastrack National Invitational.
Last weekend, UAlbany split two meets in Boston, at Harvard and Boston University. Three school records were set in the process, in the women’s 200m, the men’s 3,000m, and the women’s shot put.
“We’re ahead of where we were last year at this point,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives. “Everybody was clicking this past weekend. I think straight across the board we had numerous personal bests and we had three school records. And the personal bests were huge. People are really starting to come around and they’re looking good. We’re progressing well.”
Last Friday’s Crimson Elite Invitational marked the first time UAlbany has visited Harvard during the Division I era. The Great Danes used the meet exclusively to compete in the 60m dash and the 60m hurdles. Eight of the athletes who competed recorded either first, second, or third-best ever personal performances.
“That was the first time we tried the Harvard meet and we came away with all those personal bests, seasonal bests, or second and third best-ever performances,” said Vives. “That was exciting with a small group of athletes that they performed the way they did. It was a trip well worth it.”
On Saturday, the team went across town to compete at Boston University’s Scarlet & White Invitational, bringing the entire team to the site of the America East Indoor Championships. It was at this meet that the three school records were set. Stephanie Osuji became the first woman in program history to break 24 seconds in the 200m with her 23.59, Kyle Gronostaj ran 8:15.09 in the men’s 3,000m, and Tara Belinsky bested her own record in the shot put set last week with her first attempt of the day, measuring 49-08.25. Additionally, Victor Ortiz Rivera improved by nine seconds in the men’s mile, running 4:04.93.
“Victor’s best was 4:13, and he still has a lot in the tank,” said Vives. “He went out it 2:05 for the first half because that’s what the race dictated. He’s going to be tremendous. Stephanie ran almost a half-second faster than her school record run the week before. And Tara set the school record again on her first throw of the day. She just keeps getting better and better.”
Beyond the school records, there were many other noteworthy performances from UAlbany competitors on Saturday.
“Holly Machabee ran 9:50, and she was about a 10:18 previously in the 3,000m,” said Vives. “We went 1-2-3 in the 5,000m. Colleen Maloney’s best was 17:58 and she ran 17:18. The three guys in the 1,000m all ran 2:28 and qualified for IC4As. An A and B team in the 4x400m ran 3:16 and 3:18, and the B team was all half-milers. The high jumpers are right there knocking on the door of 7-1 and 5-9. The hurdlers all had either seasonal or personal bests. The throwers keep progressing. On the distance side, we’ve never seen straight through in every event the athletes start thinking at a different level. Kyle looked awesome setting the school record in the 3,000m.
“We are where we want to be, and now we just have to stay focused for the next few weeks,” Vives continued. “We can’t sit back. We just have to continue to work. This is the last weekend of competition before championship season starts.”
Looking at what this weekend holds, Tyson Invitational is one of the premier events on the indoor calendar, and features some of the best competition in the country. A few student-athletes will have the opportunity to compete in these high-quality fields with their sights set on potential NCAA qualifying berths.
“We’re taking seven athletes to Tyson: Dayleen Santana Rodriguez, Stephanie, Sidney Gibbons, Kingsley Ogbonna, Anika Hibbard, Tara, and Devon Willis,” said Vives. “They’ll each only do one even. We’re taking those seven, and we think they’re our best ambassadors, and we want to give them an opportunity to compete against top-level competition. We think they’re capable of great things.”
Where last year the group that competed at Tyson hadn’t yet seen that level of experience to that point that season, this year UAlbany competed at the Columbia Challenge at the Armory that featured 12 of the best teams in the country.
“I think it’s going to be good because our athletes are now starting to think they belong in these bigger meets,” said Vives. “They feel it, they’re not intimidated by anybody, and having that meet in the Armory was very good. This group here is very seasoned; they’ve been to these types of meets. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for them.”
The rest of the team will compete at Fastrack, the final meet of the season held at Ocean Breeze. UAlbany will use the meet to fine-tune its championship roster before the two-week training cycle that will lead into indoor championships.
“For the group going to Fastrack, it’s a fine-tuning opportunity for them,” said Vives. “You like to have each of your athletes compete at least two weeks before championships. Some of them may be in off events just to sharpen up, and others may try to find a performance in another event that they can compete in come championship season.
“Right now they have been competing every weekend, so the break is going to come at just the right time,” Vives continued. “I think we now turn to the mental focus because physically they are prepared.”
The Tyson Invitational begins Friday, February 9 at 1:30 p.m. Central/2:30 p.m. Eastern. The Fastrack National Invitational will begin Friday at 2:00 p.m.