Track Visits Cornell, Middlebury
ALBANY, N.Y. – After opening the season with the Great Dane Classic, the University at Albany track & field program will split this weekend to attend separate meets. The multis athletes will compete at Cornell’s Upstate Challenge starting on Friday, January 20, and the rest of the team will head to Middlebury’s Winterfell Meet, where they will compete against host Middlebury, Vermont, and McGill University from Montreal in Middlebury’s brand new indoor track facility.
“I heard Middlebury’s new building is a $46 million facility,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives. “Six lanes, state of the art.
“Middlebury has always supported our cross country meet and when the coach reached out to me I thought it was a perfect opportunity to reciprocate,” Vives continued.
Last weekend at Ocean Breeze, the Great Dane women placed second behind Princeton, while the men place fourth behind Connecticut, George Mason, and Buffalo.
“I thought that the women got off to a good start, finishing second,” Vives said. “We weren’t going for points, but I did want to see both teams finish in the top three in scoring. We had some good performances up front, with Kingsley Ogbonna, Grace Claxton, Dayleen Santana Rodriguez, Jonathan Eustache, Chinwe Igwe, and Tara Belinsky all performed solidly.
“Where we could learn a little bit, however, is that in a scoring meet everyone needs to be conscientious that they count,” Vives continued. “So false starting or not finishing a race can cost the team points.”
The Great Dane Classic was held a week earlier than usual this year, so the team came back closer to the first date of competition than in years past.
“I’m thankful we have an additional week before conference championships, because we brought them back too late this year,” said Vives. “I’m not saying they didn’t work out, but maybe they didn’t work out at the proper intensity. We brought them in, trained five days, and had a meet. So a lot of them were sore, a lot of them were flat. They felt heavy. Even the veterans were struggling to run times that should come easy to them. So that’s something we have to figure that out in the future. I need to bring them back two weeks early, so the first week they can get over the soreness and the second week we can go to work.
“Tuesday we had a mental preparation session led by throws coach Deshaya Williams, who was an NCAA champion,” Vives continued. “Coach Junior Burnett also spoke, and he made the 200m finals at Jamaica Trials. They talked about how you prepare and get focused once you’re ready physically. And I shared some stories about some times when we outperformed expectations because people believed we could. Matthew Campbell even spoke about his experience at NCAA Outdoor Championships last season. The day he competed was drizzly and cooler, not great conditions to high jump. And he had missed his first two attempts at the opening height. So I spoke with him and instead of withdrawing he told me he didn’t come this far to no-height, and he pulled it together and placed seventh and was named an All-American.”
After opening the season in a higher-intensity event that featured team scoring, as well as a handful of Olympians in the competition field, the team will partake in a more relaxing event this weekend, at both locations.
“Middlebury didn’t have a multis event,” said Vives, “so it would have been just us competing against ourselves. At Cornell, we’ll see competitors from Syracuse, Buffalo, and Cornell. A multi eventer needs to go through the full event at least once before conference championships, so they’re not doing it for the first time when it counts most. That’s why we look for an early season meet that runs the full pentathlon and heptathlon. And we usually see our student-athletes improve by about 100 points at championships from what they did early in the season. We want them to have a good start to build on for the rest of the season. The multis have always been a good event for us at conference, and even last year at ECACs.
“They almost have their own meet this weekend,” Vives continued. “Friday there are no other events, and Saturday they compete before the rest of the meet starts. The women will do all five of their events on Friday, and the men will do four on Friday and three on Thursday.”
The women’s pentathlon at the Upstate Challenge begins Friday at 4:30 p.m. The men’s heptathlon will begin shortly after at 4:45 p.m. The Middlebury Winterfell Meet begins Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
“I know they’re going to be okay,” said Vives, “but for the athletes it’s hard to start flat like that, especially when they have such high expectations for themselves. After last weekend it will be more of a low pressure environment. And I think people will surprise themselves because they tend to perform better when they’re relaxed."