One of the biggest things a team can have on its side, in any sport, is a little bit of luck. The “Immaculate Reception” by Franco Harris enabled the Pittsburgh Steelers to defeat the Oakland Raiders in a 1972 playoff game. In a 1996 playoff game against the Baltimore Orioles, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees hit a “home run” that was caught by a 12-year-old fan, giving the Yankees the lead and ultimately a series victory. At the State Championships at St. Lawrence University last weekend, the men’s track team found itself on the unlucky side of things.
“Sometimes luck just is not on your side, and things that don’t normally happen, happen,” head coach John Izzo said.
After taking an early lead in the 400-meter dash, junior Greg Dusek was tripped up by the second place runner, causing a pileup of the top several runners. So instead of getting first or second, Dusek did not complete the race. If there was any consolation, it was that sophomore Scott Bambrick finished second in the 400. Things did not get any better in the 3,200-meter relay, when the UR team was bumped, causing the batton to be knocked free from a runner’s hand. The 3,200 is one of the team’s usual strengths, but UR finished last. Misfortune continued in the pole vault when senior Giancarlo Rondash snapped his pole on a jump, but he still pulled out fourth.
Despite the unfortunate string of bad luck, the men still finished fifth overall out of the 14 competing teams, behind St. Lawrence, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Ithaca College and SUNY Geneseo, prompting Izzo to say “We competed very well. The only negative on the weekend were a few things that were beyond our control.” Had those three events ended differently, UR would have been right in the mix, but as Izzo said, “In sports, crazy things can happen to anybody.”
With Dusek still a bit shaken up, he attempted to compete in the 200, but finished eighth. His teammates, however, ran very well in the 200 and helped gain lost points. With times of 22.94 and 23.27 seconds respectively, freshmen Matt Tierney and Tommy Hainsworth finished second and fourth.
In the 800-meter relay, Tierney, Strandberg, Hainsworth and Dusek combined to finish second overall. Dusek also finished fifth in the long jump. Filling in for Dusek in the 1,600 relay following the shake up, Tierney teamed up with junior Jacob Budny, Strandberg and Bambrick finishing second. Izzo called the 1,600 relay team’s performance “a very good job given the circumstances.”
The high point of the meet came in the 35-pound weight throw, when sophomore Andrew Wunder and senior Dan Quinn finished second and third with marks of 16.40 and 16.02 meters respectively. In addition to his second place finish, Wunder provisionally qualified for National Championships, but he will need to improve on his mark in order to ensure his qualification.
The last chance to qualify is this weekend when the team goes to ECAC Championships at Tufts University. Izzo said, “The goal for this weekend is to finish in the top 20 out of the 74 teams. Although, points are very hard to come by because the level of competition is so high. There are no athletes at ECAC’s who don’t have a chance to score. Everyone has earned their way there.”
Women’s ResultsAfter finishing sixth at last year’s State Championships, the women’s track and field team made it a goal for this year to finish in the top five. And as has been the case throughout most of the season, the team reached its objective, finishing fifth overall in the 13-team field, behind Geneseo, Ithaca, St. Lawrence and Hartwick College.
Coach Barbara Hartwig was excited that UR finished higher than last year, calling the improvement a “step in the right direction.” With the team ready for the challenge of some very tough competitors, Hartwig added, “The team was aware that they would have to fight and scrap for every single point.”
Unlike the earlier meets this season, the sheer number of competitors meant that it would be a two-day event, not including the Pentathlon Championships that already took place last weekend. Hartwig said it was a “very strenuous meet and a very tiring two days,” but she added that “I felt we handled it very well.” She continued, “it was basically survival of the fittest, and I think our team handled that very well.”
One of the top UR performers of the weekend was senior Angela Burgess, who finished in the top five in several events. In the 200-meter dash, her time of 26.90 seconds put her in fourth, and a time of 59.91 seconds in the 400 gave her a second. Junior Shelly Gabriele also ran a strong 400, finishing sixth with a time of 61.64. In the 500, it was sophomore Katie O’Brien and senior Elizabeth Conway finishing back to back, earning fourth and fifth. Finishing ninth in the 3,000 was junior Mary LeBrun, who set a personal record of 10:43.19, qualifying for ECAC’s in the process. Senior Lisa Johns completed a similar feat in the 5,000, with a ninth place finish, a personal best, and an ECAC qualifying time of 18:54.60. Sophomore Anna Barbi finished fourth in the high jump, while senior Erin Bank finished sixth in the pole vault.
In addition to strong individual performances, many women also teamed up to run outstanding relays. The 1,600-meter relay team of Conway, Gabriele, O’Brien and Burgess put together a third place finish, crossing the line less than one tenth of a second behind the second place team.
The 3,200 relay team did what Hartwig called “an outstanding job,” adding “they ran their best race of the season.” In that race, junior Elizabeth Canfield, sophomore Elizabeth Boerman and freshmen Jessica VanBinsbergen and Kate Pohlman combined to cut nearly 21 seconds off their previous season-best, finishing in sixth with a time of 10:05.84. The distance medley team of LeBrun, Barbi, O’Brien and Canfield also added to the score, finishing sixth.
“The icing on the cake was breaking two school records,” Hartwig said. Finishing second, with a time of 1:47.82, freshman Lia Boland joined up with O’Brien, Gabriele and Burgess in the 800 relay to, as Hartwig said, “smash the record they set earlier this season.” Earlier this season, sophomore Grace Kraay broke the school record in shot put. Last weekend she did it again with a third place throw of 12.22 meters, this time breaking her own record quite handily.
Hartwig said of her team’s performance in a very difficult meet, “A lot of the people who were projected to score did so. There is a lot of stress when you’re in that position, and they handled it very well. In terms of next year, we need a few more people to score and I think we’ll challenge for the top three spots. Hopefully we can have higher aspirations and move up a little bit.”
Before the team can think about next year, they first must contend in the ECAC Championships, at Tufts University this weekend. Hartwig said of the 13 women who will represent UR, “The emphasis will be on individually dropping our times.” Having competed against a number of Division I teams earlier this season, she said, “The competition is going to be stiff but that shouldn’t affect us. We’ve already faced some of the toughest competition there is.”
Swidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.