The University of Mary Washington track and field teams sent 12 athletes up to the University of Maryland Invitational this past Saturday to compete against approximately 15 to 20 other collegiate teams, most of which were Division I programs.
All those sent north by head coach Stan Soper were from the distance and middle distance group, as the long time Eagles track and field coach looked to gauge the fitness level of some of his team in the early part of this season.
“It is very difficult to return from a month-long semester break and expect to be ready to compete almost immediately,” Soper said via email. “I feel like our group returned with good attitudes, and for the most part it appears that they did a pretty good job of conditioning over the break.”
The earlier January meet for the UMW track and field team was optional, with only eight Eagle athletes competing, making last weekend’s Maryland Invitational the first real test for most of the dozen that Soper sent to run since before winter break.
Graduate student Stephen Harrison had an impressive finish in the men’s 5,000 meters, crossing the finish line in 16:00.19, good for 14th place overall and the top finish for an Eagle in that event. The men’s squad also had a pair of distance medley relay teams compete, as senior Chris Marino, senior Daniel Ache, sophomore Nate Dawes and freshman Chris Anderson took sixth place with a time of 11:07.22, closely followed by the second UMW foursome of junior Matt Shaughnessy, junior Kevin Robertson, junior Zach Fichter and freshman Julian Menk, who finished at 11:08.27 to take seventh.
Freshman Tara Landy was the lone women’s runner to make the trek to College Park, and in her first ever collegiate race, Landy claimed seventh place in the 5,000 meters with her 19:32:54 finish.
The Eagles men’s and women’s track and field teams have a couple of meets in the coming weekends to help prepare themselves for the first ever Capital Athletic Conference Indoor Championships on Feb. 19. While Soper mentioned his athletes solid work on their conditioning during their time off, he did add that they aren’t quite in racing shape yet and that both squads still have plenty of work ahead of them.
Soper said he believes his men’s team is “very excited about the upcoming season,” and he expressed confidence in their ability to compete well amongst the fellow schools in UMW’s conference if the team can avoid the injury bug and stay disciplined.
Things seem a little more ominous on the women’s side of things.
“The women’s team has been hit pretty hard by a few athletes making the decision not to return for the season,” Soper said. “Consequently the women’s team is not as strong or deep in some areas that we were hoping to be.”
Soper did add that he likes the group of ladies he has and that there is talent to work with, and that his team has accepted and look forward to the challenge of seeing how much they can develop in the months to come.
The Eagles track and field teams will next compete this Saturday, Jan. 28, at the George Mason Invitational. Soper says about two-thirds of his team will attend.