The University of Mary Washington’s track and field team competed in the University of Maryland Invitational last Saturday, Jan. 26, against a massive field that included many Division I teams. The University of Maryland, the University of Richmond, American University and Howard University were among the Division I schools in attendance.
“Meets like the Maryland Invitational can be quite intimidating,” sophomore Michelle Sutherland said. “But they allow me to race against some very fast people. I am always excited about running against Division I schools, because I like being pushed to run faster in my races.”
Sutherland competed in her first ever 600-meter race this weekend and finished with an impressive time of 1:42.3 to place sixth in the event. Another noteworthy Eagles’ performance came from senior Matt Geller, who had an impressive showing in the weight throw. Geller’s toss traveled 52 feet 9 inches, which was good for second overall in the category.
“Before the event I felt a bit excited, but mostly just relaxed,” Geller said in an e-mail. “It was the first event of my senior season, and I had only begun this season’s training two weeks ago, since I was abroad for the entirety of fall training. I was very pleased to make it to the finals and place towards the top.”
Despite there being a meet prior to the Maryland invitational, Head Coach Stan Soper explained that only a handful of athletes competed in the Jan. 8 Father Diamond Invitation, making this the first meet of the year for most of his team.
He said that he wasn’t too surprised with the result.
“It was pretty easy to see when we got back from semester break who really trained hard over the break and who just trained a little bit,” Soper said. “The performances were reflective of that pretty much. The potential is there. It’s going to be a matter of getting people into better shape and getting [the new athletes] acclimated to college meets, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Soper praised Geller and Sutherland for their performances and also said that he thought sophomore Scott Plunkett and senior Sarah Dawes had good days as well.
Plunkett was part of UMW’s distance medley relay team with freshmen David Justis and John Steenberg. The trio finished the 300-meter relay with a time of 9:02.
Dawes impressed her coach with her mile-run time of 5:31, which Soper characterized as “solid.”
With it being so early in the season, meets like the Maryland Invitational can be quite intimidating. With his team facing such stiff competition, Soper said he wasn’t looking at how UMW stacked up to the competition or even at the results.
“I wasn’t really that focused on how we compared to other teams but really more focused on our kids,” Soper said. “It wasn’t really a concern how other teams did or how we scored against them––that’s not what I’m concerned about now.”
Soper explained that it is going to be a building process throughout the year to get better before the NCAA Division III outdoor championships on May 26, but he stressed a pair of things over everything else: “getting healthy and getting back into racing shape.”
“Those are the two things we need to do [before May],” Geller said, echoing his coach’s sentiment. “Like any other sport, we need to continue to train hard both on the track and in the gym. We could all do well by improving both our physical and cardiovascular strength. Through a combination of hard work and determination, the team will see dramatic improvement between now and the end of the season.”
The track and field team’s next meet will begin this Friday, Jan. 28, when the Eagles travel to take part in the Liberty University invitational.
photo courtesy of Clint Often