Track & Field Returns To The Armory
ALBANY, N.Y. – The indoor season continues to roll along and the University at Albany will compete in their first multi-day meet of the season this weekend when they return to the Armory for the first time in three years for the Dr. Sadler Invitational Columbia Challenge, formerly known as the Armory Track Invitational.
Last week, the Great Danes competed at Middlebury for the second meet of the 2018 season. Despite a school record in the women’s 60m from Dayleen Santana Rodriguez and a school record tying performance in the men’s 60m hurdles from Sidney Gibbons, the team collectively underperformed in the season-opener at Ocean Breeze for the second consecutive year. In response, one of the goals for Middlebury, which was otherwise an opportunity to get in work or compete in a secondary event, was to make a course correction to improve the performance quality.
“I still can’t get over the beautiful facility Middlebury has,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives. “I think that for what we were looking for out of the meet we accomplished that. Last week was a work week so we just wanted people to keep working. Some of them did off events, some people we rested. I think we’re making progress, and it was better than we did last year at this meet. So I think we’re moving ahead in a positive direction.”
The Great Danes won 11 events at the Middlebury Winterfell Meet and set three Virtue Fieldhouse facility records. UAlbany also swept the team titles, scoring 193 points in the women’s competition and 181 points in the men’s.
“We’re starting to bounce back fast,” said Vives. “The three weeks away was tough. We have to shorten that. But we’re where we want to be right now. A lot of our top athletes are bouncing back quickly ahead of the meet this weekend.
“I think we’re about a week ahead of where we were last year, so that’s good,” Vives continued. “We’re going to need it for this weekend. There are 14 quality teams, some major programs and NCAA champions.”
The Great Danes will compete head-to-head against BYU, Columbia, Connecticut, Duke, Georgetown, Missouri, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn, St. John’s, South Carolina, UCLA, Villanova, and Wisconsin.
“We’re pretty excited and we think we’ll be able to hold our own,” Vives said.
The last time UAlbany competed at the Armory was the 2015 Armory Track Invitational. Since then, when competing in New York City, UAlbany has elected to visit Ocean Breeze instead, which now hosts the Great Dane Classic. Before the move, the Armory house the Great Danes’ lone indoor home meet for its first 12 years of existence.
“It’s exciting as a program to compete at the Armory,” said Vives. “It was part of our tradition since I started here. For me, it’s near and dear to my heart because I ran my first indoor track meet as a 14-year-old Cardinal Hayes High School student at the Armory. It’s a special place, and it has a tremendous tradition. When you walk in there you know you’re entering hallowed ground. Our student-athletes are familiar with the facility because a lot of their meets were at the Armory when they were in high school, so I think it’s going to be exciting.”
Though there was team scoring last week at Middlebury and in December at the UConn MultiEvent Challenge, this weekend will be the first time UAlbany puts a specific emphasis on team scoring.
“This is our first team competition, and we’re looking for people to get used to running on Friday night and coming back to compete on a Saturday, to get used to doubling events or coming back in a relay,” said Vives. “I think this is good preparation for that. And this is a small meet, it’s going to be televised, and there is a lot of excitement about the meet.
“We’re putting the student-athletes in their specialty events this weekend,” Vives continued. “We’re going to run stacked DMRs on Friday night, and I think both have a chance at school records. You’re going to be running with some great teams at this meet that can pull you along and you might end up surprising yourself. We’re excited, and we want to put our best foot forward. Our goal has shifted somewhat. Originally, when there were 12 teams attending our goal was to finish in the top three, but now with 14 and maybe 15 teams our goal is top five. If we can finish in the top five with those schools I think it would be great for us.”
Though the level of competition will be among the highest the Great Danes as a team sees all year, Vives has a particular message in mind for his student-athletes.
“Yes, we are a mid-major program, but we know that we can compete with the best teams in the country, and we know that we belong,” Vives said. “I want the team to start having the mentality that we belong in the Tyson Invitational, the Mt. SAC Invitational, the Stanford Invitational, the Florida Relays where we will see the best teams. Sometimes they haven’t fully grasped that idea, and this is the next step in that process of pushing our program forward.”
The meet begins with the first day of the multis events on Thursday, January 25. Multis continue on Friday, January 26, leading into a late-afternoon session Friday evening, before a full day of competition on Saturday January 27. The meet will be televised on delay on NBCSN on January 27 starting at 5:00 p.m., and can be live streamed via NBC Sports Gold or with a RunnerSpace+PLUS subscription on USATF.tv.