Track Visits California, Connecticut
ALBANY, N.Y. – Another uninterrupted two-week training cycle has come to a close for the University at Albany track & field program. This weekend, the men and women will split to compete in three meets. A small group will travel across the country to participate in the Mt. SAC Relays. Four throwers making the same trip will compete in the Beach Invitational at Long Beach State. Finally, the remainder of the team will visit Connecticut for the school’s third annual Northeast Challenge.
The last time UAlbany competed, the team visited the University of Florida for the Pepsi Florida Relays. Although there were a few noteworthy performances from some of the Great Danes in attendance, the meet by and large fell short of the coaching staff’s expectations.
“I don’t think we had a letdown in Florida, I think it was more a lack of focus,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives. “The kids went there and they weren’t ready to compete at the level we expected. The weather was hot, but it was much the same as we experience in Puerto Rico, so I don’t think it was the weather. They’re going to these meets now and seeing all these big schools and I think some of them got intimidated. It was a disappointing weekend. From my perspective we did have some bright lights, but some of the groups just underperformed. We didn't compete to our ability.
“We think it’s the right meet this time of year,” Vives continued. “The coaches talked and we said Oregon is traveling 3,500 miles and has similar weather to us, and they’re performing at a high level at this meet. If anything good can come out of this weekend it’s that it happened early enough that we can address it and turn it around. Right now we’re looking to get people back to work and get refocused.”
Two weeks of training followed the general underperformance at the Florida Relays. Starting this week, the Great Danes will have meets in five consecutive weekends, including America East Outdoor Championships and ending with IC4A/ECAC Outdoor Championships.
“We have so many weekends in a row coming up, we have to be strategic in how we use each meet,” said Vives. “This weekend some of them will run their primary events, but at the home meet next week they may one run an off event. And at Penn, they’ll all probably only run one event before doubling and tripling at conference championships.
“If you look at indoor, it took us a few meets to hit our stride,” Vives continued. “We opened up flat and even at the second meet we weren’t performing well. But as the season went on we got better. I’m hoping to see some of the same with this stretch we have in front of us.”
That stretch begins with this weeekend’s slate of three meets. The student-athletes participating in the Mt. SAC relays will compete first, with the 10,000m runners scheduled to race on Thursday.
“We’re going to take about 25 student-athletes to Mt. SAC,” said Vives. “We’re looking to put our best foot forward by bringing out top kids. We’re not taking the 4x400m relays anymore, because I don’t think they’re going to be ready.
We’re looking for regional performances at Mt. SAC,” Vives continued. “The objective there is to give those athletes who are ready to go an opportunity. Even for some who we think are solidly in already, it’s a chance to compete on the west coast, so if they make it to nationals they know what that cross-country trip feels like with the change of time. For our 10,000m people, it’s really the only opportunity they have to run it before conference championships.”
The 10,000m, like the multis events, is an event that the coaching staff likes the student-athletes to compete in once before championship season.
“There’s a 10,000m at Penn Relays, but it’s too close to conference championships for them to come back and do the 5,000m/10,000m double,” Vives said. “And there are no other meets in the Northeast that have a 10,000m with this level of competition. You can’t run that many 10,000m races in a season, but we like to have the athletes run one before championships so they have some experience and confidence.”
The Beach Invitational begins on Friday, but one of the four throwers competing there will also compete Thursday at Mt. SAC.
“The only thrower competing at Mt. SAC is Chinwe Igwe, because the schedule worked out where she can do the hammer at Mt. SAC and the discus at Long Beach,” said Vives. “We weren’t sure the other throwers would make it in to Mt. SAC, because it tends to be very limited with the field events. They have about 200 schools competing and they’ll take only 25-30 athletes in the field events. And if you do make it in you only get three attempts. We thought the other meet would be better for the throwers to have an opportunity to compete in a trial and a final.”
Finally, the remainder of the team will visit Connecticut for the Northeast Challenge, a meet which grew from the school’s old dual meet with UAlbany dubbed “The Dogfight” which last competed three years ago.
“A good number of our student-athletes will make their outdoor season debut at the Northeast Challenge,” said Vives. “For 25-30 of them it will be their first meet of the season. They’ve been working hard, and they want to be selected for these other meets. And meets like Northeast represent their opportunities. They have to go and show up. There are going to be some good schools competing at Northeast. It’s also an opportunity for our kids to compete in a meet close to home with good facilities and good competition.
“When we had the dual meet with Connecticut, it was good because it was something we could point to on the calendar, and something that could teach our kids how to compete head-to-head,” Vives continued. “It’s not necessarily about the performance, but more beating the person in the other jersey in front of you. We don’t really have anything like that on our schedule now, since the meet has become more of an invitational. So we’re looking more to get performances out of the meet.
“Connecticut is one of the top teams in the Northeast, so it’s always good to be at meets where they are competing,” Vives continued. “I think sometimes out kids compete better against familiar teams. At Florida, everyone in your heat is from an unfamiliar school. There isn’t the same history with those teams as there would be with a UMBC or a Stony Brook.
The UAlbany events at Mt. SAC begin Thursday at 3:30 p.m. local time. The Beach Invitational begins Friday at 12:00 p.m. local time. Finally, the Northeast Challenge begins Saturday at 10:00 a.m.