Indoor Track Officially Kicks Off Season At Penn State Relays
Indoor Track Officially Kicks Off Season At Penn State Relays
ALBANY, N.Y. – After easing into the season with an intrasquad scrimmage at the RAAC Classic in December, the University at Albany men’s and women’s track teams will begin competing for real starting Saturday, January 11 at the Penn State Indoor Relays. The meet is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. with the mixed 1 mile on the track and the women’s 20lb weight throw.
“We are happy to get back to work, and see where our athletes are after the holiday break,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives.
Recently, the men’s and women’s teams have started the season in earnest at the Penn State Nittany Lion Challenge. But this year, the schedule has shifted so the Challenge takes place next week, which is the same time UAlbany will host its own meet at the Armory in New York City.
“The meet is new for us,” said Vives, “but it really is the perfect opener. We think everyone at the meet will be trying to accomplish the same thing, trying to see what form their team has after the holidays. The meet is non-scoring, so there is less pressure on the athletes to hit a mark, so they can just go out and compete.”
“We probably won’t see any NCAA qualifying marks,” Vives added. “We might see one or two IC4A or ECAC marks. As a team, we’re not really looking for those yet, but of course, we won’t be disappointed if they happen. They’ll just be a bonus.”
The team will compete at the Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track on the Penn State University campus. Like other top quality indoor tracks in the country, Penn State’s track features six lanes around a 200-meter bank, and eight lanes in the middle straightaway for the 60 meter dash and the hurdle events. Additionally, the track features a hydraulic adjustment system, allowing the raising or lowering of the bank to accommodate different races. The bank will not be adjusted during the meet, except for lowering the turn behind the finish line of the 60 meter dash and hurdles to allow the athletes to run straight through, instead of up the incline on the banked turn.
“Penn State has one of the best tracks in the Northeast,” said Vives. “It has nice, long turns, and is in a very nice facility. And the athletes like running there because it gives them a break from the usual New York City and Boston locations where we compete so frequently. That’s the reason we added a meet at Cornell and the Spire Institute in Ohio, to keep things fresh for the athletes. This trip to Penn State is a little longer than usual, but it works out nicely because classes are still not in session. And it provides a great bonding opportunity for the athletes.”
“In terms of competition, we’re expecting high competition in some events, and perhaps not so high in others,” said Vives. “But more importantly, we’ll be competing against teams we usually do not see during the season, which is a nice change of pace.”
Coach Vives plans to train through the meet this weekend, in preparation for the high quality performances he will need later in the season.
“We are going to work through this meet, and continue building towards the championship season,” Vives said. “Both the men and the women will look to defend their America East titles from last year. Additionally, I think the men have a chance to win IC4A’s again, and we think the women can be at least top-three at ECAC’s, after being fourth last year. Beyond those goals, we’d like to qualify at least one athlete from the men’s team and one from the women’s team to NCAA’s, which hasn’t happened at UAlbany since Luke Schoen qualified in the pole vault in 2009.”
Coach Vives prides himself on running a complete program, in that the team has the potential to be competitive and score in any event. This year, Vives is graced with the return of a roster from a year ago that was comprised of a lot of young talent. That young talent is now a year older and a year more experienced.
For example, junior John DeLallo placed second in the 1000 at last year’s IC4A’s. Junior Andrew Pirnie ran 1:50 for 800 meters during the outdoor season. Sophomore Taariq Jones won the 400 at the America East Outdoor Championships last year. And junior captain Alexander Bowen qualified for outdoor nationals in the high jump, after narrowly missing qualifying for indoor nationals in a tiebreaker.
The jumping events could be an unusually strong event group for the Danes this year. On the men’s side, Bowen will be backed up in the high jump by freshman Youssef Benzamia who has cleared 7’, and Jamaican transfer Matthew Campbell, who has cleared 6’-8”. The women’s team boasts senior Ashley Grant, who took first place in the high jump at the America East Outdoor Championships last year, as well as senior Rochelle Reid, who won the event at last year’s America East Indoor Championships. Reid is also coming off an unofficial performance at the RAAC Classic where she cleared a height of 5’-8.75”, higher than any woman at UAlbany has jumped in history.
“We could be scary deep in the high jump,” said assistant coach Matt Jones.
The pole vault will be another area of strength for the Danes, with senior Alfonso Scannapieco leading the way. He will be joined by freshman Nathan Hiett, who was one of the best vaulters in the country last year in high school.
Coming off a strong cross country season, seniors Brittney Lane and Silvia Del Fava will look to continue their success in the long distance events. They will be joined by junior transfer Valentina Talevi from Italy, who is also strong at long distance. Additionally, senior captain Kathryn Fanning will be a top contender in the middle distance, having won the mile and the 1000 at last year’s America East Indoor Championships.
Elsewhere, senior captain Matthew Catera returns to action in the multi events after sitting last year out due to injuries. He holds the school record in the decathlon with 6,637 points. Another captain, Abel Gilet, will be competing in his first indoor season at UAlbany, having only competed outdoors last year. The women’s throws will be anchored by juniors Janice Johnson and Samantha Kosa.
The sprints and hurdles may be the thinnest event group on the team, but UAlbany still boasts solid talent at 400m. Junior Michelle Anthony looks to bounce back from her injuries during the outdoor season, and senior captain Tynelle Taylor-Chase is coming off an outdoor season in which she claimed victory in both the 100m hurdles and the 400m hurdles at the America East Outdoor Championships. In the flat sprints, senior captain Jillian Haynes could place in the top three in all three sprint events at conference championships.
As far as relays go, coaches Vives and Jones believe they will have traditionally solid teams at each relay distance. A standout may be the men’s distance medley relay, which may have the potential to qualify for nationals.
“For the men, we have a pool of athletes to consider for the DMR from a solid middle-distance squad,” said Coach Jones. “Now, it’s a matter of playing around with the pieces to find the best group of four for the relay.”
Additionally, UAlbany’s current best national qualifying hopes rest with Lane, Del Fava, and Valentina in the long distance races, Bowen and Reid in the high jump, Scannapieco in the pole vault, and Fanning in the mile. Fanning in particular is an interesting case, as a determination will need to be made regarding qualifying as an individual or in a relay if the opportunity presents itself.
“Depending on the number of teams or individuals accepted, someone like Fanning may find an easier time qualifying as an individual or as a member of a relay,” said Vives. “Indoor nationals is tough, so if we are lucky enough to have an athlete with a legitimate chance to qualify we will need to determine the best course of action for that athlete.”
But for now, national qualifying concerns are far away, and the job of the athletes this weekend is to showcase how they are able to perform. Following the meet this weekend, UAlbany will host the Great Dane Classic at the Armory in New York City on Friday, January 17.