The women’s 4×400 meter relay team ended the indoor track and field season by running a season-best time of 3:52.29 at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship in Boston earlier this month.
Still, assistant coach Angelo Booker said he felt the runners’ times were not fast enough. Booker, who closely coaches the sprinters, said he expected more out of the relay team’s four runners – junior Tynisha Gardner, sophomore Shanice DePass and freshmen Devon DuPont and Brittani Adams.
“I saw a better time coming than that,” Booker said at practice last week. “I’m not going to say I was disappointed. I was just unsatisfied with it.”
Booker said injuries played a role in slowing down the four sprinters that day.
Injuries were also troublesome for the rest of the track and field team during the winter season. Several athletes went down with ailments while others continued to compete in pain.
So as the outdoor season began last Saturday at the Monmouth Invitational in West Long Branch, N.J., the goal for the team was clear: Get everyone back to full strength.
On the whole, the team is looking toward the 4x400m relay team for strong performances, but there are others who will be expected to contribute.
Senior sprinter and jumper Steven Johnson, who sprained his lateral collateral ligament in the indoor season, said the two weeks spent out of competition gave everyone a chance to recuperate.
“The break was really good for me and the team,” Johnson said. “A lot of people used the time to heal up their injuries.”
To help get everyone healthy for the stretch run, the Owls used the Monmouth Invitational as a “cold” meet, where all runners only competed in medium- to long-distance events while certain athletes did not participate at all.
The team hopes to compete at close-to-full strength this Saturday at the Terrapin Invitational in College Park, Md.
At Monmouth, freshman Joshua Louis finished fifth in the high jump clearing a height of 6 feet, 2 inches. The men’s 4×400 relay team finished ninth with at time of 3:29.25.
For the women, freshman Amanda Cole finished fifth in the hammer throw with a toss of 35.71m. Sophomore Natashia Gehr finished ninth in the women’s 200m dash, while DePass and fellow sophomore Noelle McKenzie finished eighth and ninth, respectively, in the women’s 800m run.
The women’s 4x400m ‘A’ relay team finished fifth and the ‘B’ team placed sixth in the event.
Gardner, a 4x400m ‘A’ relay team member, has spent the last several weeks suffering from turf toe.
“We had to curtail her workouts at certain points because of her toe,” Booker said. “She showed a lot of courage and a lot of heart to train and compete with her injury.”
Gardner fought off some pain to win first place in the 500m dash at the Atlantic Ten Conference Championship last month. At the ECACs, she recorded a season-best time of 1:13.99 in the 500m and ran in the 4x400m relay.
Gardner said the workout that Booker designed for her and other runners helps them learn “how to attack certain races.”
“He puts together bits and pieces of an individual’s race to make you better,” she said.
Along with Gardner and DePass, DuPont and senior Delicia Sample ran on the 4x400m relay team at the ECAC Championship. DePass said the relay team, comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores, will improve with experience.
“This is still new to us,” she said. “Next year we’ll know what to expect and we’ll be able to build on what we have done so far.”
Coach Stefanie Scalessa said the relay team has received positive contributions from several freshmen runners including DuPont, Adams and Carlleen Allison. With sophomore Cheryl Anscombe and freshman Rose Drayton returning from injury, Scalessa said the relay team will have depth for years to come.
On the men’s side, junior middle distance runner Dave D’Addario and freshman thrower Bryce Buffaloe will attempt to top the school records they previously set in their respective events. Seniors Andrew Shultz and Johnson, both look forward to finishing their careers on a positive note.
Johnson finished second in the long jump at the A-10 championships last spring. He was beaten on the final jump.
“That was a terrible loss for me,” Johnson said. “I want to come back, win the event this year and compete in the Regional and National Championships.”
Based on the number of quality individual performers, Scalessa said the winter season ended “outstandingly.” She said the team will need more time before it can be competitive in the conference and at the ECAC/IC4A championship level.
“We need to develop better as a team first,” Scalessa said. “At this point, we really don’t have enough kids [on the team] to make an impact.”
With Penn Relays a month away, Scalessa said the team will attempt to remain healthy, while pushing to improve their individual performances.
“We want to make an effort to focus in on each person individually and start to give them an opportunity to set some nice personal records,” Scalessa said. “For the people who weren’t able to compete in the indoor season because of injury … we want to help them shine in the events that they are really strong in.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.