UAlbany Debuts New Track With Two Meets
ALBANY, N.Y. – For the first time since the 2011 season, the University at Albany track & field program will host a meet on campus. After not hosting a meet last year and the year before due to construction of the new football stadium and track facility, the Danes will debut their new track this weekend with two meets. The men host Connecticut for the fifth annual Dogfight in the morning, while the women will compete against Colgate in the afternoon.
“Having the new track, and hosting a home meet, is very exciting,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives. “The athletes are ready to get on the new surface and run fast, and it’s great they have a chance to compete on their home campus in front of their friends and classmates and the university community.”
Because the track is brand new, even the UAlbany athletes will have to learn its various characteristics and idiosyncrasies. Some information may be gleaned from the old track, which, particularly in the early spring, featured a fairly strong west wind, which was helpful to hurdlers, short sprinters, and jumpers, but made things more difficult for oval events.
The Dogfight is a dual meet exclusively between the men’s programs of Connecticut and UAlbany. Lately, Connecticut has held the edge in the series between the two teams, winning two of the last three meets, though UAlbany has been competitive every year. With the construction of UAlbany’s new track, the Danes were unable to host this meet, and each of the last two has been at Connecticut’s facility.
“There are three or four top programs in the Northeast,” said Vives, “and we like to think we’re in that category. It’s good to compete against another team like that. Originally, when we first started this meet, our athletes may have been a little intimidated by Connecticut. But they aren’t anymore, and they don’t see themselves as the underdogs.”
Dual meets such as the Dogfight offer a different atmosphere than the big invitationals scattered through any track program’s schedule. The meet is smaller, runs more quickly, and the races are more intimate.
“It’s good to have a traditional dual meet,” said Vives, “and this is a good early season meet to have. It acts as a measure for where the team is at this point in the season. We use it to teach our student-athletes about racing head-to-head, whereas at invitationals they will usually only be chasing performances. That becomes important for conference championships, when we’re competing directly for points against other teams.”
“This meet also allows us to simultaneously showcase our top-end talent, and the depth of the talent we have,” Vives continued, “because all of our student-athletes who are able will compete, and develop in this meet.”
The women do not have a meet like the Dogfight, so instead they are hosting their own dual meet against Colgate. In the past, the women would accompany the men to Connecticut ,where the women’s team there would host a meet alongside the men’s Dogfight. But the women don’t have the same partnership with Connecticut’s women’s program, so they had to find something else to do.
“The women have a disadvantage, not being tied with another team like the men are,” Vives said. We’re hoping to develop this into something the women can host on odd years, when we don’t travel to Connecticut for the Dogfight. Ideally, that would involve Connecticut’s women’s team, but that’s not the case right now.”
As far as events go, the coaches have set out to put everyone in their best event, in addition to a secondary event. Because the meet is small, the events will pass by quickly, and the athletes will need to learn to recover quickly for their next event, and become used to doubling up in the same day, because they may be called upon to do so at conference championships later in the season.
This weekend is the first of three during which UAlbany will host a meet on its new track. In two weeks, the team will host the inaugural Spring Classic, which projects to be a notably larger meet than either of the two running this weekend. Later in the season, after conference championships, the team will host a Last Chance meet, for final attempts at qualifying times for championship season.