Track & Field Kicks Off at Boston University
ALBANY, N.Y. – The University at Albany track & Field program will attend an early-season meet at Boston University on Saturday, the first time the Great Danes will face live competition before the season begins in earnest in January following the semester break. It is the third straight year the team will compete in December in a meet beyond their annual intra-squad scrimmage.
Last season, the Great Dane women swept the indoor and outdoor America East titles for the sixth straight season, while the men won their 14th-straight America East Outdoor title, bouncing back from a disappointing runner-up finish at the indoor meet that snapped their 13-year winning streak. From those championship teams, the Great Danes lost double-digit scoring contributors. The incoming class will have coalesce with the returners to fill in the gaps to continue the Danes’ championship success.
“Our newcomers can be contributors right off the bat,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives. “We added a female pole vaulter, which we haven’t had in a while, and the throwers look incredible. The jumpers put up good marks at our scrimmage on short approaches. Our hurdlers are deep, and our sprinters look good. The 400m/500m group should be solid.”
The newcomers in particular will help the team not only replenish the losses from last season, but bolster events where the team may have fallen behind in certain respects.
“We have a great group of newcomers,” said Vives. “We are solid in a lot of events, especially where the team was weak. Some among our newcomers were state champions in high school.”
Perhaps the largest shoes to fill for the returners and the newcomers alike are from the women’s sprinters from last year. Three of the four, Stephanie Osuji, Taahira Butterfield, and Chanel Smith, have all graduated, while the fourth, Dayleen Santana Rodriguez, only retains indoor eligibility. The quartet has arguably anchored the strongest group for the Great Danes over the last two years, leading the Great Danes to as many as five scoring places in individual events at conference championships.
“We basically have to replace all of our top women’s sprinters from last season except for Dayleen, who only had indoor eligibility remaining,” said Vives. “But the newcomers are filling in the spots they left behind. That group is hard to replace, but the new group is committed and dedicated, and we’re encouraged by their performances from our scrimmage.”
Though this is a soft opening for the indoor season, which will fully get underway in January, the coaching staff still sees it as an opportunity to instill in the team the goals for the season to get them in the right mentality to compete and be successful.
“Our goals are the same as they are for each season,” said Vives. “We want each team to have a 3.0 GPA. We want to win both indoor and outdoor conference championships. And we want to be a top-30 team nationally. Beyond those goals, we always want to qualify a handful of athletes to NCAA Championships.”
Track & field features one of the longest preseasons in collegiate sports. While the distance runners have competed throughout the fall cross country season, the track & field athletes have been exclusively training since they returned to campus in August.
“For most of the team, this is the first real opportunity they’ve had to compete since May,” said Vives. “They’ve gone through three months of preseason training without being able to fully compete, so they’re excited about getting going.”
Projecting ahead a bit, there is a unique opportunity for the women’s team this season.
“After winning their first-ever America East XC title, the women have a chance to duplicate what the 2011-12 men’s team did by winning all three conference titles in the same year,” Vives said.
For now, the team will focus on this first meet, and getting their racing legs under them at least once before they leave for the semester break.
“If some are ready for great performances, that’s fine,” said Vives. “But we’re not putting an emphasis on getting a great mark out there. It’s only the first meet, and we’re more interested in opening up on a positive and being competitive.”
The Boston University Season Opener begins Saturday, December 11 at 11:00 a.m.