By AVA ROBB-MCCORD
The University of Mary Washington men’s and women’s track and field teams finished their indoor season at the end of February, where men placed fourth and women placed third among competing schools in the Capital Athletic Conference.
Now, the outdoor track and field season is in full swing. The team prepares for the Outdoor CAC meet in the beginning of May, just a few weeks away. This year, the team is confident that they are in a better position than last season and are ready to put their best foot forward for the remainder of the outdoor season.
Helping the track and field team along their journey to success, the athletic department hired Anthony Wallace as the new men’s and women’s sprints and jumps coach. Wallace, or Coach Ant as the athletes call him, replaced coach Kathy Binder after a year at her position as sprints and jumps coach. The athletes have responded positively to the newest addition to the team.
“I think Coach Ant is exactly what our program needed. We have so much talent that wasn’t being utilized and he has done a great job bringing out the best in everyone. He knows what he is doing and as a result the sprints team really trusts him,” said sophomore sprinter Angie Cherikos.
The addition of Wallace has been a welcome change for the entire team.
This past weekend on Saturday Mar. 23, the track and field team participated in the Goucher College Invitational held in Towson, MD. The weekend proved to be successful as many UMW competitors finished in the top three of their respective events.
On the track, junior sprinter Erin Andrewlevich finished first in the 100 meter dash and in the women’s 4×100 meter relay placed second, among other noteworthy performances. While on the field, senior thrower Ripken Smith won both the discus and hammer throw and sophomore thrower Jackie Smith placed second in women’s javelin.
Commenting on his last season as a UMW track and field athlete, Ripken Smith has dedicated the last three and a half years to finishing his athletic career as strong as possible, with hopes of qualifying for Nationals by the end of the season.
“It will be very difficult but I want to qualify for Nationals in the Hammer this year. So I am really focusing on that event but I still want to focus on shotput and discus too. If I continue to improve and set new personal records at every meet, I will consider this season a successful one.”
So far, Ripken has held strong on the promise to himself and has set a new personal record at each meet this season.
On the distance side of the track and field team, which includes events ranging from 1500 meters to 10,000 meters, the athletes are confident in their performances and abilities thus far.
“With the start of outdoor, our workouts are smoother and more consistent. We’re in a better position now than we were at the beginning of indoor in December,” said freshman distance runner, Zoe Rafter.
While the team has moved past their performance at the Indoor CAC competition, both the men’s and women’s teams have their sights set on finishing in the top three at Outdoor Conferences in May.
“I think now people know what needs to be done in order for this season to be a success. People are looking fit at practice, and the season has only just started. The goal for both men and women is always aim for winning the conference titles, realistically top three. That’s something we’re more than capable of doing,” said Cameron Coates, junior distance runner.
While the sprints and jumps part of the team gained a new coach this season, the distance portion of the team will say goodbye to three year coach, Alec Villiva in May. As the current head coach for the distance team, Villiva will be replaced by the now assistant coach, Stephen Harrison.
Sophomore distance runner Carly Hughes commented on her feelings about losing not only a coach but a friend at the end of the season.
“Coach Alec has done so much for me as a runner, and is one of my favorite people. I was so sad when I heard he was leaving, I hope he still comes back for races. That said, I’m happy it is Coach Stephen who will be replacing him for cross country and track.”
The team is optimistic about the rest of the 2019 Outdoor season which will be held at CNU on May 3-4. Between now and then there are opportunities for the UMW community to show support for the track and field team at two home meets hosted at the Battlegrounds complex.
UMW will host the annual Battleground Relays on Apr. 5-6 as well as the Eagle Invitational, which will be held on Apr. 27.