When people think of University of Richmond’s most successful athletic programs, track and field is likely not among them. But early into the 2017 outdoor season, several athletes are dominating local competition, with high expectations for the rest of the year.
On the weekend of March 24, UR hosted the 12th annual Fred Hardy Invitational in the E. Claiborne Robins Stadium. Seven hundred student-athletes from 18 schools came to compete, and UR came out with nine top-five finishes including three victories.
Track and field coach Lori Taylor, now in her 15th season with the Spiders, considers the Fred Hardy Invitational to be the beginning of the outdoor season.
“Coming off a competitive, good, indoor season in terms of personal best and performances and conference performances, we’ve got pretty high expectations for ourselves going into the outdoor season,” Taylor said.
For UR track and field athletes, the season never ends. They run cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter and then outdoor in the spring. It is a slog that can continue into mid-June for women who qualify for nationals, the top-level meet in the country.
Track and field is an individual sport. The team itself does not qualify for anything; rather, individual runners do in their respective events. First runners must qualify for regionals and then nationals, and from there they race until they are eliminated.
For nationals, the country is divided into East and West regions. The top 12 runners from each region in each event qualify. The top 12 is based on individual times, not winning or losing specific events. A runner could conceivably finish in 12th place at a meet and still qualify if the runners above her were fast enough.
This is why UR standout Amanda Corbosiero, who won both of her events at the Fred Hardy Invitational, was not totally satisfied with her victories.
“I’m pleased, I guess, with the wins," she said. "Not so much with the times. My long term goal is to make it to nationals.”
Corbosiero knows what it takes to make it to nationals. She made it to the first round last year and indoor this winter. Even though she handily beat the competition at this meet, she knows that there is a certain benchmark she will likely have to meet to make it back to nationals.
“We know one year to the next, basically, what it takes," Taylor said. "So for Amanda it’s trying to run sub 4:24, and she was mid 4:25."
This difference of less than a second can decide who makes it to the next round and who ends their season early. Corbosiero is held to such a high standard that simply beating the competition isn’t enough. In fact, running against comparatively inferior competition can hurt runners' times, Taylor said.
It is not just Corbosiero who Taylor says is an all-American level talent performing for the Spiders. At the meet two weeks ago, in the 1,500-meter and 800-meter races, UR had women finish in three of the top four spots. In the 3,000-meter, Shelby Cain, WC '18, took second place. Mary Allen, WC '17, took second in the 200-meter dash, and the Spider’s 4x800-meter relay narrowly outpaced William and Mary to finish first.
It is a good start, but for Taylor it is not enough to simply be better than the local competition.
“The goal is always to win, but it is also to be at your best, and set your personal best, and not to make excuses,” she said.
Contact sports editor Mike Cronin at email@example.com.