Indoor Track In Boston For IC4A/ECAC Championships

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ALBANY, N.Y. - Although America East Championships has come and gone, with repeat championships for the University at Albany men’s and women’s indoor track teams, the season is not yet over.  On Tuesday, Alexander Bowen got word he qualified for Division I nationals in the high jump in New Mexico on March 14.  But before that happens, he and his teammates will compete in Boston at IC4A and ECAC Championships.

By this point in the season, the roster on both teams has trimmed down somewhat, as the only remaining athletes are those who have hit qualifying standards for various championship meets.  The men last won IC4As in 2010, and the women are coming off their best finish ever a year ago, when they placed fourth at ECACs.

“I think both the men and the women can place in the top three this year,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives.  “This meet is more about quality.  We expect our athletes to step up to the level of competition, to compete at a higher level.”

“IC4As and ECACs are a step up in quality from the conference meet,” said assistant coach Matt Jones.  “Where at conferences, we scored in 19 of 20 events for both the men and the women, this time we really have to pick and choose our spots.”

“If our athletes all perform individually, the team will do well,” said Vives.  “There are 85 schools in the field, so unlike conferences where you need maybe as many as 200 points to win, IC4As and ECACs can be won with 50 or 60 points.”

“These meets are really the culminating event of the season,” said Jones.  “We’re ultimately looking for some personal bests, score some points, and run quality relays.

IC4As and ECACs are a different beast than the meets UAlbany has competed in so far this season, as there are trials and finals in every event except for the 3,000 and the 5,000.  The different format raises certain issues in selecting which athletes will run which events.  Despite fielding strong relay teams across the board, the women will not run any distance relays, instead opting for Kathryn Fanning to defend her title in the mile, and Brianne Bellon to compete in the open 800.  This way, they will not have to worry about saving themselves for another race.

“The athletes did a great job doubling and tripling at conferences,” said Jones.  “But here, there is little room for error to make finals.”

That margin for error can be seen in last year’s results, where to make finals in the 4x800, an event the UAlbany men will field this weekend, teams had to run 7:34 or faster.  UAlbany’s best time this year is 7:33.12.  To make finals in the distance medley relay last year a team needed 9:58 or faster.  UAlbany has run 9:55.46.

“The same team that ran at conferences will run the trials of the 4x800 this weekend,” said Jones.  “They ran 7:37 at conferences, and that was their second or third race of the meet.  This time they’ll be doing it fresh.”

The trials team will consist of Dylan Lowry, Youness Benzaid, Andrew Pirnie, and Larry Ramirez.  The team will be running without John DeLallo, who instead will focus on the open mile.

“I think this team can go under 7:30,” said Jones.  “And if they can do that without DeLallo, then we’ll be in good shape going forward.”

In addition to the immediacy of the IC4A and ECAC titles on the line, the relay teams have the opportunity to hit qualifying marks for the Penn Relays later during the outdoor season.

“We’d like to end up with a quality seed time for the Penn Relays,” said Jones, “because we’d like to have that out of the way and taken care of.  Then we won’t have to worry about it later during outdoor when there’s no guarantee the weather will cooperate.” 

“We’re expecting some big performances,” said Vives, “and hopefully some school records.  We think the men’s 4x800 has a good chance to win the whole thing.  We’re hoping for both 4x400 relays to make finals, and possibly break school records.  Especially the women’s team, which has already broken the school record once this season.  And the men’s distance medley hopefully can break 10:00 twice this weekend.”

UAlbany isn’t only taking track athletes to the meets this weekend.  A number of field athletes will be in attendance, as well as one multis athlete, Matt Catera, who departed on Thursday.  Included in the group is UAlbany’s notoriously deep men’s high jump squad, consisting of Bowen, Youssef Benzaid, Matthew Campbell, and Kinglsey Ogbonna.

“Campbell is ready for a big jump,” said assistant coach Todd Wolin, who works with jumpers, vaulters, multis, and hurdlers.  And King, we’re looking for him to hit the junior nationals qualifying mark, which is 6’-10.75”.  Ogbonna’s best jump so far is 6’-9”, which he did at the Collegiate Invitational.

“I’d like to place at least two of the high jumpers in the top eight, if not three,” said Wolin.  “The difficult part is the uncertainty regarding who is attending.  You have the seed list, but Notre Dame, for example, doesn’t come to this meet, so you don’t really know what the competing will be like until you get there and see who has shown up.”

As an added wrinkle for the high jump, the top seven competitors are all going to nationals next weekend, offering an early preview of what that meet may hold.  Further, Bowen is the reigning IC4A outdoor champion in the event, and the defending indoor champion, Cornell’s Tommy Butler, is also in the field.  Bowen placed third at last year’s indoor meet. Another Cornell jumper, Blair Montez, holds the top seed. 

Alfonso Scannapieco and Nathan Hiett are both competing in the pole vault.  Scannapieco is tied for the fifth seed, but is only five inches behind the top seed.  On the women’s side, Rochelle Reid will be competing for the final time until next indoor season, because she will redshirt the upcoming outdoor season.  Her remaining eligibility will allow her to compete in both indoor and outdoor next year.  Michelle Anthony has a shot at the school record in the 60 hurdles, and she will be joined in the event by Tynelle Taylor-Chase.

Only two throwers have hit qualifying standards to compete in Boston this weekend.  Abel Gilet and Samantha Kosa will both compete in the shot put.

“My group has already transitioned to outdoor training,” said assistant coach Deshaya Williams.  “I’ve had them do hard conditioning and lifting.  We’re really training through this weekend because I have aspirations they’ll go far in outdoor, and to do that they need this work now.”

“This weekend is really a cherry on the season,” Williams continued.  “For Abel, I’m hoping for the school record.  And for Sam, I’m hoping she can build on her huge improvement from conferences.   If both can make finals this weekend, I’d be pleased with that.”

IC4As and ECACs mark the first time this season that the UAlbany team, as a whole, will compete at Boston University.  Bowen and Scannapieco previously competed at the Track & Tennis Center last week at the BU Last Chance Meet in an effort to bolster their national qualifying chances.  And before that, Scannapieco competed in the Scarlet & White Invitational the same weekend as the Millrose Games.  Boston University’s track is considered one of the fastest indoor tracks in the world.

“I think BU’s track is faster than the Armory, just looking at the times you see coming from it,” said Vives.  “And it is nice for us to be traveling to a different venue, after competing so many times at the Armory this season.”

“This facility has been good to us,” said Jones.  “You see a lot of fast times on this track.”

“We’ve set a lot of our school records here,” said Vives.

In preparation for this meet, the team, with the exception of Bowen and Scannapieco, had a weekend off from competition after America East Championships.

“More than anything,” said Jones, “I think the two week break has served the athletes well mentally.  And I think a weekend where they didn’t have to travel is huge for letting them get refreshed.  As far as workouts go, we’re doing quality work with additional rest.  Higher intensity, with longer recovery.  At this point in the season, we’re not going to gain any conditioning.  But I think all of them have fresh legs, and fresh heads for this meet.”

The athletes not competing this weekend have already begun the transition from indoor to outdoor.  The remaining athletes, apart from Bowen, will run their final indoor races at this meet, and then begin their transition after an off day on Monday.  The outdoor season begins in earnest a week after Bowen competes at nationals.

“March is our regrouping month,” said Vives.  “Indoor winds down and outdoor is right around the corner.”