Bill Ziskin

Track Hosts Spring Classic

UAlbany Sports Information   04-21-2017

ALBANY, N.Y. – The University at Albany track & field program will host its only home event of the 2017 outdoor season this weekend with the running of the 33rd annual Spring Classic.  38 teams will be in attendance on Saturday, and UAlbany will host a short ceremony before track events begin to recognize the 20 seniors on the roster.

“The home meet came at the right time,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives.  “I think a lot of them have family and friends coming and they’re excited, so I think we’re going to see some good things.  And then we have two weeks until conference championships.  Our goals haven’t changed; we still want to repeat as conference champions, we still want to win IC4A and ECAC championships, and we want to qualify 20 to East Prelims.”

Last weekend, the team competed in three different meets.  Two of the meets, the Mt. SAC Relays and the Beach Invitational, took place in California, while most of the team visited Connecticut for the third annual Northeast Challenge.

“Being in three different places in one weekend was a program first for us,” said Vives.  “It was my first time going to Mt. SAC.  It’s definitely a high quality meet.  The Oregon women broke the NCAA record in the 4x100m relay again.  LSU was even leading them through the first three legs, and they ran under the old collegiate record as well.  There were some quality people at all of those meets.”

The visit west was the third of three early season opportunities that provided the team the right combination of good weather and quality competition to elevate the student-athletes’ performances in an effort to satisfy postseason qualification standards.  For the most part, however, as was the case after the Florida Relays at the beginning of the month, the results fell short of the coaching staff’s expectations.

“We got to a point in the season where our student-athletes, I’ll be honest, didn’t step up,” said Vives.  “About twenty percent of the team did well at Florida and California.  But the rest were kind of flat, a little off.  Some aren’t running bad times, but they’re not where we thought they would be yet.  From my point of view we were disappointed with the results.  I think we’re in a funk, and we need to refocus.  We have two and a half weeks until conference championships, so there’s still time to pull ourselves out of it.  But it is bearing down on us.

“We need to jolt the team and wake them up, and make them realize that the little things matter,” Vives continued.  “That it’s their responsibility to take care of themselves.  We’ve perhaps become a bit of a victim of our own success.  We had a tremendous indoor season, almost like a dream indoor season, and there’s been a bit of a letdown.  I’m just hoping people will be able to pull themselves around.”

Despite the poorer than expected results, Vives thinks the program is moving in the right direction. 

“I told them ‘champions get it done at the end of the year, and you have to decide how you want to finish’,” Vives said.  “So I think Mt. SAC is the right meet for us to be in, we need to be in those type of competitions if we’re looking to elevate the level of the program.  It’s about showing up every time you have an opportunity.

“It is part of the maturation of the program I think, to move past the excitement of being in California and remembering it’s a business trip,” Vives continued.  “A year ago we were in Vermont in 35-degree weather, and now we’re trying to change and compete in bigger, more quality meets.  And it doesn’t seem like we’re fully taking advantage of the opportunity.”

One unexpected development of the trip to California was that the team bumped into local track & field superstar Miles Irish, who attended Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High school in the 1980’s.

“I met Miles Irish while we were in California,” said Vives.  “I saw his race at Union when he ran 8:16.  Coach Jones introduced me to him.  He was there watching his son, Miles, who was running the 1,500m for Dartmouth.  He lives in California now.  He was surprised that I still remembered what he did.  And then we introduced him to two of our Burnt Hills alumnae, Schuyler Pruyn and Alyssa Drapeau.  Schyuler ran a personal-best in the 1,500m.  I guess you can’t be from Burnt Hills and meet Miles Irish and then run badly.

“I don’t want to be totally negative, there were some good performances,” Vives continued.  “Schuyler, Jake Johnson, Chinwe Igwe, Adrian Mithell, they were among those who did step up and take advantage of the opportunity.  We found that Adrian was the only collegian to make the finals at the Beach Invitational.  And we believe his mark is the best by a freshman in the country.  And I think our jumpers did really well at Connecticut, as did some of our throwers.  It was the first meet for some of the roster, the first of three meets for those who may not have competed during the early part of the season.  So I think it was a good start for them.”

This weekend marks the first time that UAlbany will compete in back-to-back weekends all season, and it is the second of five consecutive weekends before the team has another weekend off.  But for the most part, the travel requirements for the team are limited.

“It’s the time of year where having a home meet will not exhaust them,” said Vives.  “Next week most will stay close when they go to RPI.  And then in two weeks we’re going to conference championships in New Hampshire, which is reasonably close.  It’s not like going to Maine.  Then we go to Princeton for IC4A and ECAC Championships.  So I think this is the time of year that they really get excited about.

Vives hopes that the increased frequency of meets helps the team refocus and get into the appropriate frame of mind for the impending championship season.

“You’ve done the work, and you’ve competed every other week early in the season,” said Vives.  “Now you’re starting to compete more frequently to get into a rhythm.  It’s like a pitcher; it sometimes takes a couple games to get into their groove after some time off.  RPI next week is almost like another home meet, Penn Relays is primarily relay events so that’s more fun for the student-athletes who compete there. 

“I think a home meet is good in that for once we’re not on the road,” Vives continued.  “I think it will be refreshing for out student-athletes to not have to worry about getting on a bus or getting on a plane, and instead compete in familiar surroundings in front of the family and friends.  It takes a lot of the stress off.  And we’re bringing in some good teams like Northeastern, some Canadian and Puerto Rican teams, and some conference teams in Vermont and Hartford.  So I think it’s going to be good, I think we’ll see some surprises from some people.”

The presence of familiar opponents the Great Danes will see highlight a flaw in the bigger, more prestigious meets the team has visited so far this year.

“One of the things I think happens at the other meets we’ve attended so far is there are no common opponents,” said Vives.  “We go to Puerto Rico and there are only teams we’ve never seen before.  We go to Florida and we’ve heard of the teams but we never race against them.  We go to California it’s more teams we don’t know.  There’s no familiarity with the people in your race, no common rivalries.  Even though you’re going to compete hard, I think you want to beat your conference opponents just a little bit more.”

In years past, UAlbany had hosted two home meets during the outdoor season.  The Spring Classic would run in April, followed by the Purple & Gold Last Chance Meet in May, after conference championships.  But the way the calendar fell for the last few years, there is no longer room for the Last Chance Meet.

“It’s a lot of work to put on a home meet, but I think it’s worth it,” said Vives.  “We’re going to honor our seniors, and just make it a real positive experience.  The other day they saw a side of me that I don’t like to have come out.  But I think part of coaching is being honest, letting them know that they’re not focused as a team, not competing as well as they can.”

Field events start Saturday at 10:00 a.m.  Track events begin at 12:00 p.m.  Live results are available via finishright.com.

“This weekend I hope to see a lot of personal and seasonal bests,” said Vives.  “I hope to see more people earn regional qualifying marks.  The main thing we want to see is that they come and they’re focused and engaged and they compete.  That’s all we can ask for as coaches.”

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