April 11, 2008

Track Teams Gear Up for Sea-Ray Relays

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Following up on the momentum from last weekend’s Penn Invitational, the men’s and women’s track teams are gearing up for a meet today in Knoxville, Tenn., the Sea-Ray Relays. After combining for 11 event wins, 10 IC4A qualifiers, four NCAA qualifiers, and 11 ECAC qualifying marks last Saturday, the track teams are looking to gradually build on their earlier successes this season, using the competitive nature of the Tennessee Relays to elevate their level of performance.
“The competitive level at Tennessee is always very high,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. “We see teams that we don’t usually see — from the Southeast conference, the ACC, the America Conference — and that’s exciting. Teams have usually gone down and responded very well to those competitive situations. It’s even more competitive this year because it’s an Olympic year; it’s not just a collegiate meet. So we will see some athletes that are trying to get into Olympic trials, get qualifying marks, and just get into a quality meet to do some great work.”
Now that the Red is getting back into the swing of the regular season following Spring Break, it will be depending on its seniors and standout performers to continue a competitive outdoor campaign. Building off of 22 top-5 finishes and an overall impressive showing at the Penn Invitational — especially from senior Mike Smayda, junior Andy Miller and sophomores Jason Inzana and Scott Jaffee, in the 800 meters, pole vault and discus, respectively — the men continually want to improve on their personal bests. Seniors Muhammad Halim and Aaron Merrill will also return to action this weekend.
“Muhammad Halim will be competing this weekend,” said men’s head coach NathanTaylor. “And Aaron Merrill will be back this weekend — he hasn’t run in three weeks,” Taylor said.
The women will be looking for ways to up the ante in this weekend’s competition after athletes including juniors Jeomi Maduka and Maria Matos, and sophomores Erin Roberts, Stephanie Pancoast and Jessica Weyman had qualifying times and distances. They will be working on refining their technique this week in practice. The team will be working on specialized events in hurdles, relays and throwing events to ensure consistent growth in skills over the course of the spring season.
“Usually, from a conditioning standpoint, if the work hasn’t been done at this point, it’s really too late,” Duesing said. “Most of what we’re doing [during practice] is technical skills with field events, steeplechasers, hurdlers — the reason you work on techniques there is because they are all different events than what we had during the indoor season. For example, if you put a few more hurdles in and up the distance, someone from the 60-meter hurdles can have a lot of trouble with the 100-meter hurdles.”
The runners in particular can have a hard time getting back into a comfortable rhythm, which is one of the biggest concerns at this point. Since they are already in good shape, most of their performance hinges on timing and the knowledge of how to strategically attack a race.
“With middle and long distance runners, so much of their work has already been done up to this point,” Duesing said. “Maybe for another week or so we will keep doing regular workouts, but as we get beyond that, we really start to bring things down in terms of overall volume of work. Techniques will sharpen people for later meets in the season.”
For the throwers, practice is key and repetition is especially vital. While they are constantly trying to increase their strength through weight-training, the throwers also have to acclimate to different throwing events as they learn how to smoothly transition from the indoor season earlier in the year to the outdoor season in the spring.
“Throwers will continue to lift pretty heavily in the weight-room for a few more weeks,” Duesing said. “But there again — the discus, the hammer, the javelin — they’re all different. So, it’s important to get a lot of repetitions, and that is what we are trying to focus on.”
At Tennessee, the Red will get a chance to see how they stack up against world-class athletes.
“Most of our top guys are going to be competing in Tennessee this weekend,” Taylor said. “So we’ll get a good glimpse of how those top performers are going to stack up against very good competition from the SCC, the AC, and a couple of Big Ten teams will be there as well. It’ll be a great opportunity for our top guys to get a sense of where they are.”
“[Tennessee] is also a chance to prepare for the Penn Relays in a couple of weeks,” Duesing said. “We want the 4×100, the 4×400, the 4×800 and the distance medley to be competitive — all of those relays will be running those this weekend. So, it’s not only the individual performance but the relay performance where you want people to perform well. Throwers and distance runners will also be able to go down to Bucknell after Tennessee, and that’s always been a very good meet for us.”
This weekend will be a good test for the Cornell teams — after the Sea-Ray Relays, the Red will not only be able to compete with top-notch athletes but will also get a chance to get its competitive juices flowing as it gets towards the heart of the 2008 spring outdoor campaign.
“This is one of those weekends where people know they will be in great, competitive situations,” Duesing said. “And we always want athletes to take advantage of these opportunities because a lot of times, they don’t come around again.”