Track Kicks Off Outdoor Season In Puerto Rico
ALBANY, N.Y. – With no rest for the weary, the University at Albany outdoor track schedule commences just one week after the last indoor athlete concluded his season. Last week, Alexander Bowen competed at Division I Indoor Nationals in the high jump, and now he’s joined his teammates in Puerto Rico for the first outdoor competition, the Spring Break Classic.
The Danes won both the men’s and women’s America East Indoor Championship. For the men, it was their ninth consecutive victory, and the women’s second. UAlbany scored athletes in 19 of 20 events on both the men’s and women’s sides.
“We had some goals for the indoor season, and we were close on all of them,” said Roberto Vives, Director of Track & Field and Cross Country. “We defended our indoor championships, the men were top three at IC4A’s, the women were top six at ECAC’s, and we qualified one for nationals. That performance helped to elevate the mentality of the team. It helped get the athletes on board with what we look to do.”
“For outdoor we have similar goals,” Vives continued. “We want to win conferences for the men and women, we want to get as many people qualified for NCAA Prelims as possible, about 15-20 or so. Outdoors, we don’t place the same emphasis on IC4A’s and ECAC’s because it falls on the same weekend as our commencement, so it becomes more of an individual-focused meet.”
The outdoor roster is set to expand somewhat from what it was during indoor, as a handful of athletes who sat out the indoor season will see a return to competition in the spring. With that in mind, each event group has its own projections for how the outdoor season will progress.
“The jumpers did a good job indoors,” said Vives. “But we’re weakest in the high hurdles. We have one athlete coming back, Jose Farley, who has never competed at UAlbany but has finally been cleared by the doctors. We have two javelin throwers on the men’s side, and one on the women’s. That’s an event that’s been a hole for us on the past. Jeremiah Obeng-Agyapong will return to the 400 hurdles, where we placed second at conferences as a freshman. Both our men’s and women’s 4x100 relay teams should be high quality, and there is school record potential for both teams. Our men’s team could break 40, and our women could break 45. And our men’s 4x800 relay could dip under 7:20. Jonathan Santana is returning in the 400, and he’s split 45.6 in a relay. Silvia Del Fava could be a 33:00 10,000 runner. She’s ready to take it to another level. And we’re super excited about our mid-distance, with Kathryn Fanning, and Brianne Bellon, and John DeLallo and those guys.”
“I’d be surprised if Michelle Anthony wasn’t around 13.75 or 13.80 for the hurdles,” said Todd Wolin, who works with jumpers, hurdlers, and multis. “She could also be low 24 in the 200. She’s worked hard, and she’s started doing the little things in practice that she neglected in the past. I’d like her to qualify for regionals, but it’s admittedly tough to do in the hurdles.”
“Tynelle Taylor-Chase will do the high hurdles part time, but the 400 hurdles full time,” Wolin continued. “With her, Anthony, CiCi Simon, and either ToniAnn Werner or Paige Vadnais, we’re hoping to put together a really high quality shuttle hurdle relay for Penn. We’re losing Rochelle Reid in the high jump, but she’ll compete unattached in a few meets. But Ashley Grant is healthy, Min Pacella is jumping well, and Solène Bastien will high jump more frequently, so the depth will still be there. Katie Dowd is the only javeline thrower I coach, and I expect her to be in the mid 40’s (meters) and qualify for Penn. Our multis athletes, Vadnais and Mary Adeyeye, will do their first heptathlon at the Bobcat Invitational. Bastien will also compete in the multis outdoors.”
“For the men, I think we can qualify three or four guys in finals at conferences in the high hurdles,” said Wolin. “Farley is back, and Rudje Beckford is healthy. In the high jump, we might be able to qualify six for IC4A’s. Bowen and Matthew Campbell are already qualified, and we’re hoping to get Campbell qualified for U23 Jamaican nationals. Youssef Benzamia is healthy, and we’re looking for him to get into U23 French nationals. Alfonso Scannapieco will high jump more, outdoors, after being limited with an injury during indoors. Kingsley Ogbanna has hit the standard for USA junior nationals. And if we can get Christopher Stephenson jumping like he’s capable, we’ll have scary depth at this event.”
“Like the women, the men will run their multis at Bobcat,” said Wolin. “Nick Mattera will also do it at conference championships, most likely, while Matthew Catera will wait until IC4A’s if all goes according to plan. And in the pole vault, Scannapieco is looking to improve on his honorable All-America mention from last year, and break the school record, at which he is currently tied. Nathan Hiett we’re looking to qualify for NCAA prelims, and with Mattera, Catera, and Donald Dibari and Stefan Buechele, we may be able to qualify four to IC4A’s.”
“Our men’s 4x800 has room to grow,” said Matt Jones, moving to the distance events. “We’re hoping to break the school record, and maybe get under 7:20. We used IC4A’s to get some seed times for the 4x800 and distance medley relays for Penn. You need a seed time to get into the championship section at Penn, and we’re going to use the Texas Relays to try to improve on our 4x800 and DMR times.”
We want to compete the best we can at conference championships, and we want to qualify as many as we can to NCAA prelims, which take the top 48 athletes in each event,” Jones continued.
Perhaps the biggest deal for UAlbany for outdoor is the opening of the new track, in the same location where the old track used to be. The new track, designed by former 800m champion Don Paige, is essentially the same track as exists at the University at Oregon in Eugene, where many national championships and Olympic trials are held. The old track had seven 42” lanes, while the new one has nine 48” lanes. The straightaways themselves are shorter, about 85 meters, and there are three shotgun extensions on the track, including one for the 1,500 start. Both the javelin and the discus can be contested on the infield, and there is an additional throwing pit up by the softball field. The high jump apron is large enough to run two pits at once, should the need arise.
The new track also means that UAlbany will be hosting meets on campus for the first time since the 2011 season. Three home meets will be contested this year: the Dogfight, the Spring Classic, and a Last Chance meet.
“The new track is great,” said Vives. “It adds a great new element to our program. And it allows our athletes the chance to compete in front of their peers, in front of the university community.”
But before any of that can happen, the Danes have some business to take care of this weekend. The team departed for Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning, and have spent the week preparing to compete in the Spring Break Classic.
“The outdoor season is quick,” said Vives, “and I tell our athletes they need to take advantage of opportunities to run fast. We’re coming off a strong indoor season. We used to train through this meet, and may have missed qualifying opportunities. So this year, we’re working on getting the marks early, so we can pull back and focus on training.”
That seems to be the conventional wisdom among the entirety of the UAlbany coaching staff. The weather in the early meets, in Puerto Rico and Texas and California is more conducive to producing fast times, without having to deal with the cold and the wind and the rain attributable to the Northeast.
“Puerto Rico is a rust-buster,” said Jones. “We want to see what fitness the athletes have. We want them to run fast if they can. If we’re lucky, we’ll see a few regional qualifying times. Under the right conditions, a lot of those performances can happen. Early season, warm weather, maybe we can pop a good time. It’s about being ready when the opportunity is there.”
“The athletes are hungry to get going again,” said Vives. “There has been no let down since indoor, and they are all motivated. We expect everyone to gel at the same time.”