Aiming to bolt out of the blocks at initial invite

With the indoor track and field season set to begin this Friday at the Jack Pyrah Invitational in Haverford, Pa., both the men’s and the women’s teams aim to progress from last seasons’ finishes at

With the indoor track and field season set to begin this Friday at the Jack Pyrah Invitational in Haverford, Pa., both the men’s and the women’s teams aim to progress from last seasons’ finishes at the Atlantic Ten Conference Championships.The women’s team, led by senior Tynisha Gardner, seeks to improve upon its ninth place finish at the A-10s while the men’s team looks to finish higher than its 8th place finish last season.”I expect us to do well this year,” said Gardner, the team’s captain. “Attitudes are different this year with coach [Mathis] Harrison. He focuses on a lot of the positive aspects of the team.”Stephanie Scalessa, the track and field coach, said plenty of positive aspects can be found among the teams, which each containing just one senior.”We’re a really young team,” Scalessa said. “We have a lot of rising talent on our team and we want to move up in our conference.”Adin Mickle, a sophomore, hopes a move up in the conference for the men isn’t that far away.”I hope to see A-10 medals around our team’s necks this season,” Mickle said. “I want to see people scoring points at the A-10s. I want to see people placed in the [Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America Championships.] They are all realistic goals. I just know everyone will do it this season.”Not only does a sense of confidence emanate from the teams, but a sense of excitement also exists. There’s so much excitement that when Scalessa was asked to name a few key runners she might depend on throughout the season, she named 15.She said she is anxious about the amount of athletes participating in different events.”We want to places athletes in the 800 [meters] and higher,” Scalessa said. “We want to place in the pole vault, the mile and the 800. We should actually have a pretty good 4×800 [meter relay] team this year.”Gardner, a two-time team outdoor track most valuable participant, said there is a certain confidence surrounding the team this year.”We have such a young team,” Gardner said. “But I think they’ll show up to run. They have a lot of confidence from high school. We’re not cocky, but we are confident.”Mickle said the men’s team has added an element that may have been lacking last year.”Intensity,” said Mickle. “A lot of kids are really committed to work hard and make it a great season.”Scalessa said the teams’ confidence may stem from actually practicing together as a unit.”Before I got here, they didn’t know each other,” Scalessa said. “The coaches before me were part-time coaches, so they had to get here when they could. The kids used to practice at different times, like 5:30 a.m., while some would practice at 4:30 p.m.”The different practice times weren’t the only issue, as Gardner said their track wasn’t exactly state-of-the-art. Now, the team has the advantage of practicing on a new track surface, put in place last summer.”The old track had holes in it,” Gardner said. “You were prone to injury if you ran on it. It was pretty bad. It wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst.”Even though the situations weren’t ideal, Gardner said, “Everything is so much easier after you prepare in the bad circumstances and move to the easy ones.”Mickle said the team has moved past the down times.”All of the rough times are in the past,” Mickle said. “I think we have great coaches now and there’s nothing that can stop us from getting better.”Scalessa said the team has been defined by the tough times and struggles.”They are so adept to change,” Scalessa said.”They dealt with new coaches, cross country and different practice times, yet still wanted to train. I tell them, ‘Everyday is not a beautiful day. But how much of 100 [percent] can you give on all days?’ They still want to train and they are still confident.”Gardner and Mickle said they want to turn that confidence into success on the track.”I want to break some records before I leave,” Gardner said. “I’m not too far off of the 500 [meters] mark now.””We want to improve in the A-10s,” Mickle said. “We want to break some school records, and we want to run all of our best times, most importantly.”Scalessa said those goals are possible, but a lot of hard work lies ahead if they are to be met. She further explained using a track analogy.”We have an 800 in front of us, not a sprint,” Scalessa said. “But they’ll do well this year.”Terrance McNeil can be reached at

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