Freshmen Highlight Three-Meet Track Weekend
EUGENE, Ore., MANAGUA, Nicaragua, & KINGSTON, Jamaica – Six University at Albany track and field student-athletes competed in three meets in three countries over the weekend, marking a busy summer season for the program. Three freshmen, Kyle Gronostaj, Tyler Ranke, and Devon Willis competed at the USATF Junior National Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Internationally, Alex Bowen competed for Panama and Grace Claxton competed for Puerto Rico at Central American Championships in Managua, Nicaragua, and Matthew Campbell competed in Jamaica Trials in Kingston, Jamaica.
Junior National Championships are open to athletes under the age of 20, who compete for qualifying spots to the junior national team to compete in the Pan American Junior Games later this summer in Edmonton, Canada. To earn a qualifying spot, a competitor must finish within the top two places in his or her event. Gronostaj was the first of the six to compete in his event, the 10,000-meters. He entered the race seeded 11th in the field. He ultimately finished in fourth place with a time of 32:00.57.
Next to compete was Willis in the triple jump. Willis entered the competition seeded fifth overall, but had ranked as high as fourth in the triple jump nationally among active junior competitors, and 27th internationally. He also ranked third in school history outdoors with a mark of 51’.
Willis ultimately took six jumps, earning an additional three by ranking in the top-eight after the first three round had completed. His first jump was 49’-10”, which was his lowest legal mark of the day. He fouled his second jump, after which he recorded a mark of 50’-8.75” in the third round. His fourth jump reached 50’-4.75”, before increasing his top mark to 50’-9.25” in the fifth round. In his final jump, Willis recorded his best mark of the day with a personal-best 51’-7”, which placed third overall in the competition and ranks second in school history.
Finally, Ranke took to the track for the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Ranke, who already ranks fifth in school history in the event with his personal best mark of 9:07.04, battled 100-degree heat to finish third in 9:28.13, outperforming his fourth-seed entering the race.
All three competitors earned Junior All-America honors by virtue of finishing within the top-eight in their events. Additionally, all three are alternates for the junior national team for competition later in the summer.
Central American Championships
Last year, Bowen won the high jump at the Central American Championships when they were held in Honduras. He cleared a height of 7’-1” to set a championship meet record. This year, Bowen cleared 7’-0.5” to place first for the second consecutive year. Claxton competed as a member of the women’s 4x400-meter relay squad with Olympic semifinalist Carol Rodriguez, St. John’s junior Pariis Rodriguez, and Indiana State sophomore Alethia Marrero. The team, which was trying to qualify for World Championships in Beijing, placed first overall with a time of 3:35. Claxton, who served exclusively as UAlbany’s anchor leg on the 4x400 relay, found herself leading off for the first time since she arrived on campus in August. She recorded a split of 53 seconds.
Campbell competed in the Jamaican National Championships, otherwise known as the Jamaica Trials. At stake for Campbell were potential qualifying positions into Pan American Games in Toronto, as well as the World University Games in South Korea. He placed fourth overall in the high jump, clearing a height of 6’-10.75”.
Summer meets will continue for these UAlbany student-athletes on a week-to-week basis as the schedules and entries become official, and the competitors get word regarding if and when they will compete again.