Indoor Track Heads To Cornell University For Upstate Challenge
Albany, N.Y.— A week after hosting their only home meet of the indoor season, the University at Albany track and field program will make their way to Cornell University for the Upstate Challenge this Saturday, January 23. The Great Danes will compete against teams all from upstate New York, including Binghamton, Buffalo, Canisius, Colgate, Cornell, Cortland, Ithaca College, Siena, Syracuse, and Williams.
A heptathlon and pentathlon will also be held on Friday, January 22, but not included in the team scoring for the meet.
“We’re off to a great start,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives. “This past weekend alone we had 17 qualifiers for ECAC/IC4A. “The student-athletes have been training all week and looking ahead towards the season. We will continue our progress at Cornell.”
Unlike the field the team faced at the Ocean Breeze Complex, the competition featured at the Upstate Challenge will be more along the level of UAlbany.
“This meet is all Upstate teams, so it will be a different experience from last week’s meet," said Vives. “We want to continue getting sharp and improving our marks to qualify for conference, ECAC/IC4A, and nationals.”
Cornell’s Barton Hall, features a flat 200-meter track, the only non-banked track the team will encounter this season. There are conversions in place to measure the times run on banked tracks compared to flat tracks. Although flat tracks are less conducive to fast times, the conversions between the two styles could produce better performances, even though the time from the banked track might have been faster.
“The facility has a different feel,” Vives adds. “It’s smaller, and not as intimidating for first-time competitors. The student-athletes are more relaxed at the meet, so we see more quality performances.”
The meet will serve as the first opportunity of the season for the multi-event athletes to compete in a full pentathlon or heptathlon. There will be seven athletes competing in the multis. Mary Adeyeye, Paige Vadnais, Anika Hibbard, and Letti Hibbard will compete in the women’s pentathlon, while Stefan Buechele, Najee Taylor, and newcomer Jake Coveney will compete in the men’s heptathlon.
“This is the first multi of the year after a week or so of training,” explained Associate Director of Track & Field and cross country Todd Wolin. “The student-athletes have been working hard, and now they’ll try to get qualifying marks for ECAC/IC4A.”
“Paige’s personal best of 3,386 points in the pentathlon is just shy of the school record at 3,594 points,” explained Wolin. “In addition to the pent, she will also be pole vaulting the following day. This will be Anika and Letti’s first pentathlon, so we’re looking for a good mark."
At last year’s meet, Junior Matthew Campbell won the men’s high jump with a height of 7’-0.5”. Both Campbell and Freshman Anika Hibbard qualified for IC4A and ECAC respectively in high jump, at the first meet of the season, with Campbell also winning the America East Field Performer of the Week.
“We’re trying to get Matt a mark for nationals,” Wolin said. “He’s ready and in the right frame of mind. If he performs the same as last year, he could be tied for top ten in the nation.”
After this weekend, only four weeks remain until the America East Conference Championships.
“We’re looking at what we should do for conference,” said Wolin. “We’re getting the marks for now, so we know how to train for the rest of the season.”
After a strong opening meet, the throwers will also return to competition this weekend led by throws Coach Deshaya Williams.
“I like to see each thrower improve on their best from week to week,” explains Williams. “The training has been going well and we have a good rhythm. Even though it’s only our second full week back, the athletes put in the work over break, so that’s made the transition a lot easier.”
“We want to make sure they’re all setting themselves up to accomplish the goals that they ultimately set for the season,” said Williams. “Chinwe and John both had a strong meet in the weight throw, and Eric in the shot put. Tara Belinsky is close to qualifying in the women’s shot put. We want Lauren Lopano, our only senior, to go out and have a big year too.”
Cornell’s facilities feature concrete throwing pits filled with gravel, similar to an outdoor throws circle. This allows for the use of outdoor implements.
“This meet is a good confidence builder—especially for the younger kids," Williams said. "A lot of them have been to Cornell in high school. They’ve seen the circle before and they know how to compete there."
Finally, the distance runners will be competing this weekend after a solid cross country season, and first indoor meet.
“Following up from meet one, we're establishing the baseline of everyone's fitness,” said distance coach Matt Jones. “This week is a continuation of that, where the student-athletes will run their secondary event so we can find out what their fitness is and enhance our training. Along the way we’re hoping to get some IC4A/ECAC standards and qualifying times for several other meets including conference.”
Having already hit the ECAC standard in the 5,000-meter, Jessica Donohue and Molly Pezzulo will run the 3,000-meter this weekend, in hopes of hitting a qualifying mark again. Likewise, freshman Cara Sherman is in the realm of hitting that standard. On the men’s side, Kyle Gronostaj also will drop from the 5,000-meter to the 3,000-meter, again trying to make the IC4A standard.
This will also be the first week for the distance relays to debut.
“We’re looking to start qualifying the relays, so we’re entering them this weekend and looking to hit some standards,” said Jones. “Now that we're back on campus and into the routine, I expect the improvements to come a little bit more consistently, and training with their teammates will help. Overall, we’re in a good spot, and looking forward to the season.”
The Upstate Challenge is scheduled to begin at 4:30 PM on Friday, January 22 with heptathlon and pentathlon, and will continue at 9:45 AM on Saturday, January 23.