The men’s track team — disappointed by its second-place finish at the Indoor Heptagonal championship — is hungry to compete in the outdoor season, which begins Saturday in Irvine, Calif.
“In the grand scheme of things, we had a very good indoor season,” said head coach Nathan Taylor. “More people qualified for the IC4A, our power rankings were almost identical to last year. However, we didn’t win the Heps, which was our goal.”
When asked if he thought coming up short at Heps would give his team more motivation for the outdoor season, Taylor replied “absolutely.”
There are several differences in the lineup of events between the indoor and outdoor seasons. The 500 meter, 1,000 meter, 3,000 meter, distance medley relay and 4×800 relay are all eliminated from outdoor competition. Taking those races’ places are the discus, javelin, 400 hurdle, 3,000 meter steeplechase, 4×100 relay and 200 meter. Taylor feels that this team may be better-built for success in the outdoor season.
“We may not have been stacked as well in the mid-distance events; those are the races that are cut out in outdoor,” Taylor said. “We also have some terrific javelin competers and strong sprinters.”
Among those who did not compete in the indoor season and who are chomping at the bit to start outdoor play are the javelin throwers. Senior Chris Friedrich and sophomore Derrick Bass have been training especially hard the past few months and cannot wait to start throwing in actual competition.
“They certainly have had cabin fever,” Taylor explained. “If they could, they would be throwing javelins through Barton Hall right now.”
Another athlete who will thrive in the changed stakes is junior distance runner Emory Mort. Taylor predicted that Mort will excel in the steeplechase this season. Sophomore Greg Simonds and freshman Kolby Hoover lead the Red in the 400-meter hurdles, which should also be a strength for this team.
On the injury front, there appears nothing serious enough to hamper the Red’s hopes for a strong start to this final leg of the year. Taylor mentioned that some of his top performers, such as junior jumper Ryan Schmidt and freshman jumper Kofi Ofori-Ansah, have experienced some bone bruises from impacts, but nothing very severe.
In terms of possible breakout athletes for the upcoming meets, Taylor has put a great deal of stock in seniors Mike Nanaszko and Rahim Wooley.
“They have done a terrific job all year long,” Taylor said. “I’m really expecting big senior performances from them.”
Taylor also mentioned that senior pole vaulter Travis Offner — who only practiced once all indoor season and still managed to place second at the Heps — is healthy once again. He has practiced for about two weeks and will look to put together a big season.
“Second semester senior year is a difficult time,” Taylor said. “There are a ton of distractions, including jobs, graduate school, graduation, et cetera that we have to deal with. Lucky for us, we have a team of members focused on having a great outdoor season.”
This team is not top-heavy, however. While athletes in all classes contribute on a weekly basis, Taylor mentioned some important juniors who have shown outstanding leadership capabilities. Junior sprinter Brian Eremita, who set the school record for 500 m indoors, and junior mid-distance runner Oliver Tassinari, who came in second at the IC4A in the mile, have impressed Taylor.
“Eremita and Tassinari have had big seasons and have shown me great leadership potential,” Taylor said. “There are a lot of good juniors. Having balance on every year sustains the program at a high level. We have 10 very competitive athletes in each of the four classes, which is great.”
Looking at the upcoming season’s schedule, Taylor said that there are a few matchups that he believes will be very exciting. The meet on Saturday in California, which will feature Air Force, will be a highlight of the season.
“We definitely have guys who have a shot at making it to the NCAA championship this year,” Taylor concluded.
Archived article by Josh Fox