UAlbany Hosts 12th Great Dane Classic
UAlbany Hosts 12th Great Dane Classic
ALBANY, N.Y. – Less than one week after opening the season at the Penn State Relays, the University at Albany men’s and women’s indoor track teams head down to the Armory in New York City to host the 12th annual Great Dane Classic.
Connecticut swept the team titles a year ago, scoring 131.5 points on the men’s side and 134.5 points on the women’s. UAlbany placed second in both team titles, with the men scoring 82 points and the women scoring 87.5. UAlbany athletes claimed victory in six events. Alexander Bowen Jr. returns as the defending champion in the high jump, as does Alfonso Scannapieco in the pole vault. The men also claimed victory in the 4×400 relay. On the women’s side, Kathryn Fanning will look to defend her title in the 1,000, while departure Patricia McNish won both the long jump and the triple jump as a senior a year ago.
In total, last year saw meet records in 11 events. Records were set in the men’s 60, 500, distance medley relay, long jump, and the junior boys 300. The women’s side saw new meet records in 3,000, 5,000, 4×400, pole vault, and weight throw. Additionally, UAlbany’s Fanning set a meet record in the 1,000.
This year again sees a mix of collegiate squads, professional clubs, and unattached athletes in the competition field. Additionally, an invitational junior mile has been added to the schedule, allowing a select group of high school athletes to participate in the meet, alongside those competing in the established invitational junior 300.
“We have more teams participating this year than we ever have in years past,” said meet director and assistant coach Todd Wolin, who also handled meet director duties for the UAlbany XC Invitational in October. “A year ago, we had 160 IC4A and ECAC qualifying times, exclusively from the Division I athletes. We are proud of the way we have built up this meet over the years, into what has now become one of the best early-season meets in the country. This year also marks the first time we will have specifically Division I scoring.”
A total of 47 teams will compete this year, with teams journeying from as far away as California. In addition to a representative sample of the top teams in the Northeast, such as Villanova and defending champion Connecticut, the Division II Champion Academy of Art is attending the meet for the first time. Additionally, two teams from Puerto Rico will be in attendance, further expanding the geographic spread of schools this meet draws.
“This meet is our first real dress rehearsal for championships,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives. “We like to run in at least one team competition per month, and it turns out this will be our only one before championships. Here, we’re looking to train our athletes to double, or even triple in events, which we might ask some of them to do at the conference meet and beyond.”
“Take John DeLallo, for example,” Vives continued. “He’s doubling in events that are about an hour apart, and he needs to learn to run that way. He has the potential to be in the top three in both events, but it will be determined by how well he can recover in that second event.”
DeLallo is one among the majority of UAlbany athletes who will be running at least two events at the meet. Some athletes will even compete in three events. Coach Vives stressed the need to handle the workload for later in the season, as well as gain experience running in sub-optimal circumstances.
“Sometimes an athlete will be put in a slower heat, but still need to do well. Our athletes need to learn how to run fast out of a slower heat, because that may happen down the road when we need them to score points, and the fastest competitors are seeded elsewhere.”
While last week at the Penn State Relays was a good way to open the season, Coach Vives expects a different environment this week.
“Last week everyone was trying to do the same thing, trying to see where they stood coming off the holidays. This week I expect things to be a little more intense, as teams really start to put down high quality performances. So, while we raced against quality teams a week ago, I think the intensity will be greater this week, so we may see some better performances.”
“We’re looking for our athletes to build on what they did last week, to step up and hopefully perform well, but the performances will take care of themselves,” Vives continued. “The performances are more of a byproduct that a goal I think. Mostly, we’re looking for our men and women to be competitive in their events. And, obviously, it’s always a goal to win our home meet, which we haven’t done in a while.”
Despite being located far off campus, the Armory still serves as the home facility for the UAlbany team. It is also where the America East Championships will be held this year, something Coach Vives looks to use to his teams’ advantage when the time comes.
“The Armory is a quality facility, and a very high-profile venue,” Vives said. “A lot of big meets are hosted at this site, including the Millrose Games since they made the switch from Madison Square Garden. It was also resurfaced this year, which is always big news for one of the fastest indoor tracks in the country. We hope our athletes can have the feeling that this is their home track, and develop a comfort level with this facility that will serve them well when conference championships are held here later in the season.”
Friday’s meet is the only home meet on UAlbany’s schedule for the indoor season.
“It’s a lot of work hosting a meet like this,” said Vives, “but we enjoy doing it. We’re the only team outside the New York metropolitan area that hosts a meet at the Armory, and we enjoy representing our program and university on such a large stage. Coach Wolin mentioned the 160 IC4A and ECAC qualifying marks from last year. I think he’s hoping for 200 or more this year.”
“Putting on this meet is a real team effort,” said Wolin. The athletes help with things like measuring distances in the jumps and throws, and placing and removing the hurdles. It’s really them that makes this meet run smoothly, and I’ve received compliments from other coaches about how well the athletes present themselves. They’re always so helpful and they always do it with a smile on their faces. It’s them that really drive the meet, and allow us to run it as efficiently as we do.”
“If I had one wish for this meet, it would be to get an NCAA qualifying mark from one of our athletes,” Wolin said. “I’d have to look, but I’m sure we’ve had NCAA qualifiers at this meet at other schools, but I know it hasn’t happened for a UAlbany athlete. Hopefully this year will change that.”
“We’ve been back for what, eight days?” Wolin added. “How exciting would it be to get an NCAA mark this early in the season, and be able to build on it from here? That would be really cool.”