Outdoor Track Visits Princeton For IC4A/ECAC Championships; Bowen Returns To Panama Nationals

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ALBANY, N.Y. – With championship season now in full swing, the next stop on the schedule for the University at Albany outdoor track & field program is a trip to Princeton University for the IC4A and ECAC Outdoor Championships.

Unlike their indoor counterparts, where the focus for UAlbany still weighs towards the team, IC4A and ECAC Championships during the outdoor season have more of an individual focus for the student-athletes.  This is, in part, because the meet usually coincides with the UAlbany commencement ceremony, so the seniors on the roster who have qualified for the meet may either not compete at all, or just run in the trial rounds and forego finals.

“Final exams and the commencement ceremony change the focus of the outdoor IC4A and ECAC meet for us,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives.  “So there is more of an individual focus for the student-athletes trying to hit or improve upon regional qualifying marks.

Some seniors, like Michelle Anthony, Youness Benzaid, and Kamilah Williams, will be among those who only run trials of their events before departing to participate in the UAlbany commencement ceremony. 

“The seniors only running in trials understand that they are going to compete only once, and they understand that this is another opportunity to continue their seasons,” said Vives.  “They also understand the importance of commencement, for them and for their families, as well as the four years of academic sacrifice that made their commencement ceremony possible.”

Heavily emphasizing the trial round of their events is not a tactic exclusive to those who will only run once no matter if they qualify for finals or not.  Those who have not yet broken into the regional list, the top-48 in the NCAA East Region in their event, have potentially two opportunities to qualify for regionals.

“The student-athletes who still need a regional mark really need to go all out on the first day,” said Vives.  “And they’re usually more relaxed on the first day when they’re still only in the trial round.  Additionally, it’s good practice in case they qualify for regionals, because there, the 400 runners for example, will have to run two really good 400s in two days.  There, they will start to see the 45-second 400 runners from schools like Florida and Florida State, so it’s not like conference championships where they might be able to run a little easier to get into finals.”

Because of this individual focus, the attention is paid most highly to the continuation of seasons, which take multiple meanings.  Most immediately the student-athletes are looking to continue on to NCAA East Preliminaries in two weeks.  But, for someone like Grace Claxton for example, there are other meets in consideration, such as the Pan-American Games, that they could qualify for this weekend.

“Outdoor track is really about conference championships and beyond,” Vives said.  “And the program through the years has really started to buy in to the ‘beyond’ part.  Before, it used to be conference championships and shut down, but as the attention has shifted to encompass the long outdoor postseason, I think it reveals how our program has developed.”

The UAlbany competition roster features 25 women and 18 men who have qualified in individual events or as members of a relay team.  Of those, the Great Danes have 11 performances in 10 events ranked in the top-10 in each respective field.  Robert Harris III ranks eighth in the men’s 100.  Taariq Jones ranks eighth in the men’s 400.  Grace Claxton ranks fifth in the women’s 400, and fifth in the women’s 400 hurdles.  Matthew Campbell ranks tied for second in the men’s high jump, based on his indoor best.  Alexx Baum ranks ninth in the women’s long jump.  Aiyanna James ranks tied for 10th in the women’s long jump.  Devon Willis ranks eighth in the men’s triple jump from his indoor mark.  Baum ranks 10th in the triple jump.  Briana Cherry-Bronson ranks sixth in the hammer.  The women’s 4x400 relay ranks 10th based on their best time from the indoor season.  Additionally, Paige Vadnais and Mary Adeyeye will compete in the women’s heptathlon. 

“Both Paige and Mary were accepted into the heptathlon,” said Vives.  “It’s the first time for both of them and it’s a tremendous opportunity.  Anytime you have a chance to compete in another multi event really helps with gaining experience.”

Pre-meet rankings may not accurately represent event seeding due to scratches or conflicting schedules or the same athlete qualifying in multiple events and having to choose between what they have qualified for.  Despite holding competitive performances in each of these events, not all of them will see a UAlbany student-athlete in the field.  Claxton, for example, will only compete in the open 400, despite holding an equivalent seed in the 400 hurdles.  And the women will not be running their highly seeded 4x400 relay.

The small competition roster is representative of the nature of the championship season, particularly during outdoor track.  Championship season lasts a long time, and each week there will be fewer and fewer roster members remaining that have qualified to compete in each successive meet.

“The student-athletes who have made it this far see the shrinking roster as a positive,” said Vives.  “They miss their teammates, of course, but now there is more time for quality coaching.  These are usually the student-athletes who are the most motivated, the ones who are most looking forward to postseason competition.  At this point, it is no longer about development, but about putting out as high quality a performance as possible.”

“So we’re hoping we can get at total of 10-15 of the competitors qualified for regionals, and even more to have about 80% of those competing this weekend to have a personal or season best, so they can finish the season on a real positive note  This is what all the training since August has been about.”

Beyond the UAlbany event this weekend, Alexander Bowen, who had redshirted this outdoor season, will be competing in the men’s high jump at Panama’s National Championships for the second consecutive year this weekend.  Last year, Bowen placed second at the national meet.  Bowen has been the national record holder in the event since his first competition as a member of the Panamanian national team last year, and just improved upon his own national record last week when he jumped 7’-3”.

“Alex jumped 7’-3” on a short approach, setting a new national record,” said Vives, “and I think this summer, a year before the 2016 Olympics, he can jump 7’-5”.  And this is what we really like to see from the young people in our program.  To go on to compete internationally for their country.”

IC4A and ECAC events begin on Friday, May 15 at 12:00 p.m. with the start of the women’s heptathlon.  Friday will see the contesting of the multi events, the 3,000 steeplechase, the 4,000, the 10,000, and the women’s discus.  Saturday’s event begin with the continuation of the multi events at 9:00 a.m.  Trials on Saturday will largely be contested entirely for the men starting at 10:30 a.m. with the 4x100, followed by the entirety of the women’s trials starting with the 4x100 at 2:45 p.m.  Sunday’s events will begin at 9:00 a.m. with the men’s shot put, and Sunday finals will follow the more traditional event-by-event order.

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