Penn Relays and Capital District Classic Mark Final Tune-Up Before Outdoor Championships
Capital District Challenge: Schedule
ALBANY, N.Y. – Coming off the first home event of the season, and with just one week of competition remaining before the America East Outdoor Championships, the University at Albany outdoor track & field program is entering its final preparation phase before they host conference championships next week. To do that, the team is splitting up, as they did earlier this season. A small contingent of student-athletes will visit the University of Pennsylvania to compete in the prestigious Penn Relays Carnival, while the remainder of their teammates will head across town to compete at RPI’s Capital District Classic.
Penn Relays is one of the most prestigious events during the outdoor season. In addition to collegiate team competing across a number of divisions, high school teams come to compete, as do professional track and field athletes in the USA vs. The World format. While official entries for the professional events have yet to be determined, the American sprint relay pools include names such as Mike Rogers, Ryan Bailey, Maurice Mitchell, Justin Gatlin, Dee Dee Trotter, and Marshavet Hooker.
Though originally scheduled to run a full complement of relay events, injuries have forced the men’s team to withdraw from the 4x100, 4x200, and 4x400 fields. The men will still compete in the 4x800 and distance medley relays.
“The men are a bit dinged up,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives, “and we didn’t want to push things with conference championships just a week away. So we dropped our sprint relays, instead of opting to put a less-competitive team out there. The guys in the 4x100 and 4x200 will stay home and get their final tune-up at RPI, where there are better opportunities for them to run individually. Beyond those two groups, three of the four originally in the 4x400 will be doing something at Penn.”
“We kept a 4x800,” Vives continued, “because it’s an event that is run at conference championships, and one we haven’t really put together yet. So we need to develop the confidence of that team and hopefully get a competitive time.”
The women, on the other hand, will be running all of the sprint relays plus the 4x800. They had entered a team in the shuttle-hurdles relay, but withdrew for similar injury and readiness concerns. The women did not enter a distance medley relay.
“The 4x100 team is the one that just ran the conference-leading time at our meet last weekend,” said Vives. “We think that, and the 4x200 have shots to break school records. Our 4x400 is the team that ran 3:41 indoors, and our 4x800 is the same that ran 8:59 indoors, except we’re substituting in Dominique Claudio, who has our fastest 800 time of the year.”
Although they are the primary draw for the meet, other events exist besides the relays. UAlbany will field a number of student-athletes in individual events, in addition to their relays.
Michelle Anthony stands as an alternate for the women’s 100 hurdles. The field takes 30 competitors, and Anthony is currently the 33rd-considered athlete. She will compete depending on the number of scratches in the event. Either way, Anthony will run on the women’s 4x100 or 4x200.
Grace Claxton and Aderinsola Ajala were both accepted to compete in the women’s 400 hurdles. Rochelle Reid and Min Pacella were accepted in the women’s high jump. Aiyanna James was accepted in the women’s long jump. Solène Bastien and Alexx Baum were accepted in the women’s triple jump. Janice Johnson was accepted in the women’s shot put. Briana Cherry-Bronson was accepted in the women’s hammer. Veleisha Walker was accepted in the women’s javelin. James Sommer was accepted in the men’s 3,000 Olympic development steeplechase. Jeremiah Obeng-Agyapong was accepted in the men’s 400 hurdles. Matthew Campbell and Kingsley Ogbonna were accepted in the men’s high jump. Nathan Hiett and Justin Farrenkopf were accepted in the men’s pole vault. And Devon Willis, Jordan Crump-King, and Colonel Fakarode were all accepted in the men’s triple jump. All UAlbany student-athletes competing in a field event will compete in the College division, except for Cherry-Bronson and Campbell, who were accepted to the Championships divisions of their respective events.
“I think we’re taking a good, quality group,” said Vives. “Penn is really a showcase-type meet. Relays are more fun to compete, and the meet itself is a great experience with so many levels of competition. And despite its huge scale, running in the relays takes the edge off of competing individually and chasing marks. It’s a chance to have a different experience.”
“The opportunity to compete in a different environment is exciting,” Vives continued. “Seeing all levels of competition helps with motivation and can reinvigorate our student-athletes before the long championship season. And for someone like Grace, who will be running at Penn for the first time, it will be her first experience of a meet like this, because there is nothing equivalent to it in Puerto Rico.”
Because the quality of competition is so high, and the size of the field so large, there are multiple finals divisions contested in some of the relay events. So, even though UAlbany relays may not qualify for the overall championship races, which would feature top-ranked programs like Florida, LSU, and Texas A&M, the Great Danes could qualify for the IC4A or ECAC final, racing against teams of a more appropriate ability.
“The additional finals are good because it allows us to compete for something in the trials,” said Vives. “And if we qualify in the IC4A or ECAC final, we will have a quality race against similar-caliber teams. Presumably, those races would be tight, so we get the extra experience of running against similar competition in close races for championship season.”
The majority of UAlbany’s men and women will stay within the Capital District for the second consecutive week when they visit RPI for the Capital District Classic.
“RPI is an opportunity for the conference competitors to fine-tune,” said Vives. “It’s non-scoring, and very low-pressure. We’ll give the student-athletes a low work load, entering them in alternate events. We may not even run any relays, and instead just have everyone compete once and call it a day. The exception is for the student-athletes whose primary events are outdoor-exclusive. They need to compete in their primary events, the 400 hurdles, javelin, hammer, because the season is so short and there are so few opportunities to compete.”
By staying close to home once again the student-athletes reduce the wear-and-tear normally received from a meet, because now once they compete they are home shortly afterwards instead of having to take a long bus or plane ride. Additionally, home meets and local meets reduce any additional stress that comes from end-of-the-semester academic pressures, because there are few missed days due to travel. These travel concerns are also why the coaching staff is making a concerted effort to limit the time away for the athletes at making the trip to Penn.
“Anyone finished competing on Friday will come home that day,” said Vives. “And they’ll get to have a weekend, which is a rare occurrence for a track athlete during the season. And those not competing until Friday will come down a day later, so we’ve worked it out as best we can where none of the athletes will be staying more than two days.”
In addition to competing locally for the second consecutive week, the RPI athletes will not leave the Capital District for another meet until the middle of May. Next week the Great Danes will host the America East Outdoor Championships, and the week after they will host the Purple & Gold Last Chance Meet, which will conclude a sequence of four consecutive weekends at home for most of the UAlbany roster.
UAlbany’s first events at Penn Relays are the women’s 400 hurdles and the women’s high jump, both of which are scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 23. The meet will be broadcast on NBCSN on Saturday, April 25 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The Capital District Classic is scheduled to begin Saturday at 11:00 a.m. with the field events.