Outdoor Track Returns To Raleigh Relays

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ALBANY, N.Y. – For the second consecutive week, the University at Albany outdoor track & field program was scheduled to split up and attend two concurrent meets this weekend.  A smaller contingent of student-athletes would make another southern trip to North Carolina State’s Raleigh Relays, while the bulk of the team would remain behind for the UAlbany Open, the first of four scheduled home events for the 2015 season.

The UAlbany Open, which was scheduled to draw competition from the Albany College of Pharmacy, Cobleskill, Plattsburgh, Saint Rose, and Vermont was cancelled early this week due to impending inclement weather.  Consequently, the student-athletes slated to stay home for their competition will have some extended time off, due to the lack of a replacement meet for this weekend, as well as no meet next weekend.  The next time they will compete will be April 11 at Connecticut.

Meanwhile, a small group of sprinters, hurdlers, and throwers will mark UAlbany’s first visit to the Raleigh Relays since the 2011 season.  The meet, held at N.C. State’s Paul Derr Track & Field Facility, features a field of about 50 or 60 schools mostly from the south.

“We used to go to Raleigh every year,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives, “but we found the weather to be a little iffy, so we stopped attending.  I remember, however, that they run a very high quality, class meet.  The competition level is higher than we’d see at conference championships, but the exposure is good for the student-athletes, and I expect they will be able to compete.”

Within the traveling group is a prominent presence of student-athletes whose primary events are outdoor-exclusive.  While some of them, the 400 hurdlers and most throwers for example, train for and compete in other events during the indoor season, with limited training focused on their outdoor events, others, like the javelin exclusive throwers, saw their first competition a week ago since last outdoor season.

“It’s important, especially for those who specialize in outdoor-only events, to get another run at their primary events,” Vives said.  “And this weekend provides them another early season opportunity to do just that.  I think last week’s meets were good.  We hit some qualifying marks and hopefully we can hit some more this weekend, before we return home and take advantage of this longer training block.”

“Last year was a bit disappointing,” Vives continued, “as we only qualified six to Regionals.  This year we’re hoping for 20.”

The Raleigh Relays is one of a handful of meets that allows ‘B’ team relays to compete, which helps coaches determine which of their student-athletes may have the potential to serve as a mainstay on the ‘A’ relay, and helps indicate how much and what quality depth a team has in an event.

“We don’t have a ‘B’ relay this year, but it is nice to have the option to run one, especially in the early season,” Vives said.  “We will be running a stacked men’s 4x400 relay, but for the women we’re taking a different approach.  The women’s relay is a bit bogged down with injury, so we’ll take the opportunity this weekend to try to develop a fifth 4x400 runner to add to the pool, to build confidence and gain experience, which should offer more flexibility later in the season if we need it.”

The developmental aspect is not limited to the women’s 4x400 relay.  Grace Claxton, UAlbany’s top women’s 400 runner, may make her debut in the 400 hurdles this weekend, an event she only started training for during the indoor season.

“Grace possibly has greater potential in the 400 hurdles than the 400,” Vives said.  “So if we can channel her ability in the 400 and develop that into 400 hurdles ability, her ceiling could very well be higher.  It’s a similar approach we’ve taken in the past with student-athletes like Joe Greene and Alie Beauvais, who were very talented in the 400, but developed into even better 400 hurdlers.”

After this weekend, the Great Danes will return to a focus on training to rebuild for championship season, which starts in May.  And that training comes with an even heavier focus, as UAlbany will host the America East Outdoor Championships this year.

“I think we’re having our best March ever,” said Vives.  “And after this weekend we’ll get back to training, conditioning, and get back into the weight room.  We’ll train through April, because once championship season arrives, the training is cut to about 40% due to other considerations that come with championship meets.  So we’re currently eyeing Penn Relays, at the end of April, as the point we’re working up towards.”

The Raleigh Relays begin Friday, March 27 at 9:30 a.m., and continue on Saturday, March 28.  UAlbany’s next home event will be the UAlbany Spring Classic, which runs April 17-18.

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