Outdoor Track Hosts Final Home Event With Last Chance Meet
ALBANY, N.Y. – Last weekend, the University at Albany men’s and women’s track & field programs won their 11th-consecutive and seventh-consecutive America East outdoor championships, respectively. It was the first time the Great Danes had hosted an outdoor conference championship. The meet was the second home event for the 2015 outdoor season, and the third and final home event will take place this weekend, with the Purple & Gold Last Chance Meet.
“We’ve now hosted four collegiate events on our track since last year,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives, “and in that time we have learned what we can and cannot do at the same time at our facility. We can do multiple events, in multiple directions at the same time, and we can easily slip the multis event into the meet without too much issue.”
“Our facility can really facilitate easy transitions,” Vives continued. “Last weekend’s setup worked well for the championship atmosphere with some of the features we provided, like the escorting of student-athletes to their events, the awards presentations, and having the warmup area in close proximity to the track on the intramural fields. Our meet director, Todd Wolin, did a tremendous job putting on the meet. He thought of everything and the entire meet went smoothly. We’ve received nothing but positive feedback from the other institutions that competed here.”
Conference championships was the final team-oriented event for the outdoor season, and as championship season continues the focus will, from now on, remain largely focused on individual performances. The goal now is to earn or improve upon qualifying standards for postseason meets like IC4A and ECAC Championships and NCAA East Regional Championships. The meet this weekend exists to serve exactly that purpose, to offer student-athletes one final opportunity to hit a mark that will extend his or her season.
“The objective for this weekend is to improve on existing performances,” said Vives, “to get IC4A and ECAC marks and to move up on or get on to the regional list. We’re at a point to continue improving, for those who will continue past this weekend. For some, this weekend will be their season finale, so we hope those student-athletes can finish their seasons on a high note, before they take a rest and, particularly for the underclassmen, start to develop for next year.”
Regional championships take the top 48 student-athletes in an event, and right now, between the men and the women, UAlbany has about nine athletes ranked within the top-48 in their events. The goal that has framed the outdoor season was to qualify as many as 20 to regional championships.
“The weather forecast calls for high temperatures this weekend,” said Vives, “which will be a good preparation for regional championships at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. We need to prepare for the heat and humidity we will experience there, to know about being hydrated and prepared for those conditions.”
But before regionals roll around, the team will compete at IC4A and ECAC Outdoor Championships at Princeton University. Before conference championships, the Great Danes had 13 men and14 women qualify in individual events. Additionally, the men qualified teams for all four relay events, the 4x100, 4x400, 4x800, and distance medley relay, while the women qualified teams in each relay event except for the distance medley.
“Unlike indoors where IC4A and ECAC Championships are a team-focused event, we use the outdoor meets to focus on individuals,” said Vives. “They are the same weekend as commencement, so the seniors on the team may not go, and if they do, they may only run in the trial rounds of their events.”
This weekend represents the fifth consecutive weekend of competition for UAlbany, as well as the fourth and final weekend remaining home in the Capital District for most of the roster. The long stretch began way back with the Northeast Challenge at Connecticut in the beginning of March, and the home stretch began the following week with UAlbany’s Spring Classic. The next week, most of the team competed in Troy at RPI’s Capital District Classic, while some went to Philadelphia for the Penn Relays. Last week, UAlbany hosted the America East Outdoor Championships. After this weekend, the Great Danes will finish their six-week stretch with IC4A and ECAC Championships. The lack of travel has certainly helped alleviate the stress of a grueling schedule, but the coaching staff has implemented other changes throughout the season to make the grind more manageable for the student-athletes.
“I think the format we switched to this year of fewer meets is working,” said Vives. “Last weekend we saw a lot of personal bests, and we had a lot of scoring in a lot of events. So I think we’ve been progressing well, and hopefully we’re fresher at this point in the season than we have been in prior years.”
There are other stresses at play other than the consecutive weekends of competition or any travel concerns. This is the time of the year where the semester is winding down and the student-athletes have final exams and projects and papers due, and it just happens to coincide with the beginning of championship season. So the format of the Last Chance Meet has been made to account for those academic motivations, and even the hosting of the meet itself has roots in affording the student-athletes the ability to address their academic responsibilities.
“Exams start on Friday, so our student-athletes are already stressed,” said Vives. “And traveling to a meet would make that stress worse, so it’s important that we have the meet here this weekend. So we start late on Friday, and late on Saturday, so they have a chance to take care of their assignments before they come to compete.”
In terms of competition, the meet will feature a field of teams from universities in the Northeast, as well as a selection of club teams, UAlbany alumni, and even some teams from Canada.
“I think the competition in the meet will give us what we’re looking for,” said Vives. “And while we’re resting some people who are nursing injuries or just need a break after a big workload last weekend, we’ll be using this opportunity to develop additional bodies for the relays, should we need them.”
“We’ve been at home, so I think we’re pretty rested,” Vives continued. “I think we’re in peak condition and we’re at the time where we’ll start seeing peak performances.”
The Last Chance Meet begins Friday, May 8 at noon with the opening event of the men’s decathlon. The opening event of the women’s heptathlon begins shortly after at 12:15 p.m. Also competing on Friday are the men’s and women’s hammer throws and the men’s and women’s javelin. Events on Saturday begin at 9:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. with the continuation of the men’s decathlon and the women’s heptathlon, respectively. Field events begin at 2:00 p.m. with the women’s pole vault. Track events begin Saturday at 4:00 p.m. with the women’s 3,000.