The University of Richmond men's and women's track teams will be competing in the Atlantic 10 Indoor Championships in Kingston, R.I., on Feb. 20 and 21, under a newly revised format.
For the first time, the competition will take place during two days, using a format similar to that of the Olympic games. Athletes will now compete in trial heats to place into the finals instead of relying on their ranking coming into the competition.
Women's coach Lori Taylor said this change was something the coaching staff had wanted to happen for a long time. It gives people a chance to qualify in an event that they may not have been seeded highly in, she said.
The new format also includes the integration of the women's and men's events into a combined schedule. Previously, they have competed separately, with the men's events during first three to four hours, followed by the women's.
With the weekend in mind, Taylor said the majority of the team had done a great job of staying on top of what they have needed to do, and had competed well during the past few weekends.
At the Armory Collegiate Invitational on Feb. 6 and 7 in New York City, sophomore Nicol Traynor broke the school record in the 3,000 meters in 9:51.90, but a fellow Spider, junior Amy Van Alstine, broke the record the following day with a time of 9:48.86.
Senior distance runner Garrett Graham said he was satisfied with his performances so far this season, given the race conditions and his busy academic schedule.
Graham has seen consistency during the past two weeks with a 19th-place finish during the Armory Invitational in 4:17.10 and another 19th-place finish in 4:17.78 during last weekend's Liberty Quad in Lynchburg, Va.
"I'm still searching for that perfect race where atmosphere, competition and fitness converge for a fast time and good finish," he said. Graham hopes to find it at the A-10s, where he'd like to run as close to 4:10 as possible, or at least get a top-five finish to score points for his team.
The throwers will head into the weekend after each one has set personal records at the Armory Collegiate Invitational.
Junior thrower Heather Roush, who is back after suffering an ACL injury last year, hasn't been throwing at the level she used to but said, "All that really matters is scoring points for the team."
It doesn't matter if athletes put up their best or worst marks, she said, as long as they beat people for the extra points.
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In full agreement with Roush is Junior Megan Ney, who won three medals at the Liberty Quad on Feb. 13 with a first place in the long jump, a second in the high jump and a third in the 4x400m relay.
"When it comes to conference," she said, "I tend to think less about times and distances and more about place and what I need to do to earn points for the team."
But senior Jeff Strojny is thinking about times. At the Armory Collegiate Invitational, Strojny ran a 2:30.28 in the 1000m. His goal is to win a gold in either the 1000m or 800m, but Strojny said he was leaning toward the 1000m where he wants to get under 2:30.
Strojny said that a few years ago his times would have led the A-10, but the competition has gotten faster and deeper, and his current time would only place him in fifth.
Taylor agreed that the A-10 conference had improved during the past few years, saying that with the higher level of competition the athletes had the opportunity to post excellent times and distances.
At the end of the season, the expectation is that everyone is ready and confident to pull together and score points all across the board, and for the top athletes to come through as planned, Taylor said.
But in the end though, she said it all boiled down to what they did in conference, because "you are only as good as your performance on the day," she said.
Both Ney and Taylor said they expected the women's team to finish in the top three, with Rhode Island for second place.
On the men's side, Graham said it would realistically be difficult for the men to finish much higher than sixth or seventh. Without a complete squad of jumpers, throwers and sprinters, the men couldn't expect to finish highly because they couldn't compete for points in a majority of events.
Having said that, Graham said emphasis would be on trying to win or place in as many individual events as possible, to at least make the team's presence felt.
Contact reporter Sarah Blythe-Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org
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