Track & Field Hosts America East Outdoor Championships
ALBANY, N.Y. – Championship season begins this weekend when the University at Albany track & field team hosts the America East Outdoor Championships. The Great Danes last hosted outdoor championships in 2015.
In the final week before championships, UAlbany split up to compete at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia and at RPI’s Capital District Classic. UAlbany’s time at Penn Relays this year started with a bang, with Hannah Reinhardt and Cara Sherman breaking their own records in the women’s 3,000m, finishing with the first and second fastest times in program history in the event. Additionally, Ludith Campos set a freshman record in the women’s hammer throw, surpassing her own mark set earlier this year by more than 10 feet.
“The first day at Penn Relays was a good day for us,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives. “The format at Penn makes it difficult to establish school records there, but Hannah and Cara did a great job. And before they ran we had Ludith set a freshman record in the hammer throw. So it was a great way to get the meet started.”
Day two at Penn was marred by weather delays but still featured solid performances from the Great Danes, including in the championship section of the women’s discus, where school-record-holder Venique Harris placed third.
“We had delays with thunder and lighting on Penn’s second day,” said Vives. “But we still saw great performances from Walter Briggs and Venique, and we had two relays qualify for finals on Saturday.”
On the final day at Penn Relays, the Great Danes fielded competitors in only a handful of events, but earned four top-five finishes in those events.
“All of Saturday’s events were slowed down by the swirling winds in Franklin Field,” said Vives. But we had a really positive finish to the meet. It wasn’t a day for great performances but it was a day to compete.”
The bulk of the team remained close to home to compete in RPI’s Capital District Classic across town. For these athletes, it was one final opportunity for a tune up before championships, to sharpen their fitness in an secondary event, or to make one last effort to secure a qualifying mark for championship season.
“It was good that the kids at RPI got a chance to compete,” said Vives. “The weather wasn’t great, but that’s track in the Northeast. They competed anyway. And we had some surprises, like Dashawn Williams suddenly putting up a 100m performance that could score at conference.”
The team now turns its attention to conference championships, where the men have won 14-straight titles and the women have won each of the last 10. Last season, won eight events to outscore runner-up UMass Lowell 219-165.5, and the women also won eight events to defeat runner-up New Hampshire 228-130. From those teams, the men need to make up 84 points from departures and injuries, and the women need to account for 86, 67 of which come in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay.
When UAlbany hosted the outdoor championship meet in 2015, the men won 192.5-126 over UMBC and the women won 227-169 over UMBC. It was the first time the Great Danes had hosted a championship track meet.
“We’re going to mirror a lot of what we did in 2015 because a lot of that was unique to the America East,” said Vives. “We try to run the meet like an NCAA Championship. The focus will be on the athletes. We’ll have a separate warmup area so only the competitors will be on the infield. We’ll have the baskets for the athletes’ warmups brought to the finish line. We’ll do the awards right after each event. We’re bringing in the announcer who does all the big meets at the Armory, Dennis Cornfield. We also have Steve Sproul announcing specifically for field events. We want to put on a great event for the student-athletes. They work all year for this, and we want student-athletes from all nine schools to have a great experience.”
Traditionally, the Great Danes only compete on campus two times throughout the academic year, once during the cross country season and once during the outdoor season. Hosting the championship meet offers another opportunity for the student-athletes to compete at home with all the advantages that provides.
“Our team is on the road about 95% of the time,” said Vives. “For the kids, it’s real important to compete in front of their family, their friends, and the university community. They feel comfortable when they’re competing at home. It’s a big advantage especially for field events, where you’re used to the runways and the boards and the throwing circles. But you also know where all of the facilities are so you’re not hunting for the bathroom or the check-in area or where to find food.”
During the indoor season, the men defeated the men defeated runner-up UMass Lowell 178.5-148 and the women defeated runner-up UMass Lowell 213-135.5. The men won four events and the women won nine. During the outdoor season, the men lead the America East in eight championship events, and hold a total of 33 top-eight performances, and the women lead in 11 events with 48 top-eight performances.
“UMass Lowell is probably the biggest competition for the men, and for the women we expect to also see UMass Lowell, as well as Binghamton and Stony Brook,” said Vives. “Our women are on pace to win the Triple Crown, and they know that and are excited for it. We see a lot of improvement with Stony Brook, and UMass Lowell continues to get better and better, and Binghamton always comes to compete, but all teams in the conference have their areas of strength. You can never count anyone out.”
As every team does, the Great Danes have suffered hits this year due to injuries, graduations, and other departures. However, over the course of a season a team can develop in unexpected ways that bolster and strengthen other areas.
“Starting with cross country, I think our distance program is as good as it’s ever been. We can score in just about all of the distance events,” said Vives. “We have to performers in most of those events. We can score three to five people in our throwing events, and we could score maybe four in the multis events. And our traditionally strong areas, sprints and hurdles, are still strong.”
The women’s team has a history-making accomplishment at stake, with the opportunity to complete the first women’s triple crown in America East history by winning the cross country, indoor, and outdoor team titles in the same academic year. The triple crown has been won twice in America East history, by the UAlbany men in 2011-12, and by the Northeastern men in 1988-89.
“A triple crown is super significant,” said Vives. “Out of a nine-team conference, for one team to win all three seasons, especially in a conference that is so strong in the distance events, is phenomenal. To haven the balance with a strong cross country team bolstered by enough from the track & field seasons is rare. The women are excited. And I think we have great leadership on the women’s team. They know what’s at stake and they’ve embraced the challenge.
“It’s championship time,” Vives continued. “It’s time to execute and perform.”
Outdoor championships begin Saturday, May 4 at 10:00 a.m.