The University of Richmond's men's and women's track and field teams will have the opportunity to confront four in-state opponents in front of a home crowd during the fifth-annual Fred Hardy Invitational on March 27 and 28.
The Spiders' rivals - the College of William & Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech and Columbia University - are four of the 20 to 25 men's and women's teams expected to attend the invitational in downtown Richmond.
The invitational is usually the Spiders' only home meet of the season, but because of construction at Richmond's First Market Stadium, the meet will be held in Sports Backers Stadium at 3001 N. Boulevard, adjacent to The Diamond, the former home of the Richmond Braves AAA baseball team.
Steve Taylor, head coach of the men's track and field team, said he expected the meet to start the track and field team's outdoor season on a good note. From top to bottom this invitational will be a competitive meet, Taylor said.
Compared with North Carolina State University's Raleigh Relay, which will also be held on March 27 and 28 and will include close to 100 teams, Richmond's invitational is small, said Lori Taylor, director of track and field. Despite its size, the meet gets more competitive each year with its teams vying to break team and event records. As many as eight event records were broken last year, Steve Taylor said.
Because the event is small, coaches may enter as many athletes in each event as they want. The meet is the beginning of the outdoor season for many teams, and none of the coaches will be limited, Lori Taylor said.
"If a coach wants to enter five people into a mile, they can," she said.
With all the Spiders having the opportunity to travel to the invitational, Steve Taylor said he was expecting many alumni, family and friends to attend the meet.
"It will be a great formula for performance," Lori Taylor said.
During the past two years Richmond's Sports Information Department has taken pride in Richmond being the first university in the country to Web stream the entire invitational live from start to finish -- and this year will be no exception.
"It's the future of collegiate sports," Steve Taylor said. He said that although conferences have streamed entire meets, no school or university has.
Women's junior javelin and discus thrower Heather Roush said she was excited about the invitational.
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"It is always a really fun meet as people's families are able to make it down," she said. Roush said her parents would be traveling from Indiana to attend the invitational, which would be her parents' first meet of the season. It will be an opportunity for many of the team members' parents to meet each other, she said.
Lori Taylor said Roush and sophomore javelin and discus thrower Monica Howard would be expected to lead the women Spiders throwers in their events, while she would look to junior long jumper, high jumper and triple jumper Megan Ney and sophomore long jumper X'auntasia Johnson to lead the Spiders in the meet's jumping events.
"X'auntasia has jumped farther each meet and will be expected to show a progression," Lori Taylor said.
In the past, Ney and Johnson have been steady competitors for the Spiders, but will have to perform well to out-jump competitors from University of Rhode Island and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Lori Taylor said. Both of these teams have talented jumpers, she said.
Distance runners Nicol Traynor, a sophomore, and Amy Van Alstine, a junior, who specialize in the 1,500 meter and 3,000m events, are also expected to perform well for the Spiders. Sophomore distance runner Tim Quinn, junior distance runner Andrew Benford and senior middle distance runners Sean Welsh and Jeff Strojny are expected to perform well individually for the men's team, Steve Taylor said.
Contact reporter Dani Pycroft at firstname.lastname@example.org
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