Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pa.
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Monday, January 8, 2007
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TRACK & FIELD PREVIEW
Mules will settle for nothing but the best in 2007

Muhlenberg track and field head coach Brad Hackett has high expectations for his team this year, and his athletes are confident they will go a long way in the season that begins on Friday at the Kutztown Invitational.

On the men’s side, the team is arguably the best Muhlenberg has seen since Hackett signed on as head coach in 1999. The Mules return all of their point-scorers from last year’s Centennial Conference Championship, and they add a crop of talented freshmen to the mix.

“I think we're deeper across the board than we’ve ever been,” Hackett said.

Kim David Cameron Smith
Seniors Cameron Smith (left) and Kim David are two of eight track and field captains this year. The other captains are seniors Drosdick, Hesselink-Hicks, Inverso, Mercado, Rothwell, and Sallese.
In the distance events, Hackett believes as many as nine athletes have a chance to score at the CC Championship meet. Among those are seniors Lex Mercado and Stephen Rothwell, junior Dan Steinhart and sophomore Stuart Udis. Last year the quartet finished second in the indoor distance medley relay with an ECAC qualifying time of 10:29.26 and then won the event at the ECAC Championships with a venue record 10:14.72.

“This year our goal is to qualify for nationals in the DMR,” Steinhart said.

Last year Mercado became only the second Mule to win three events at an indoor conference championship meet when he took home three gold medals — 800 meter, 4x400 meter and 4x800 meter — at the CC Championships. He is proud of his accomplishments, but he is most interested in the overall good of the team in the upcoming season.

“Two of the gold medals were in relays, and it takes all four runners to make that happen,” Mercado said. “Now we want to hold on to those gold medals. It has been motivation for the team to maintain those championships.”

On the field, the Mules will look to the jumpers and throwers to improve upon last year’s success. Last year, four athletes — Joel Haddock (long jump), Adam Carter (high jump), Evan Sheppard (discus) and Matthew Sallese (shot put) — qualified for the ECAC Championships, and Hackett is confident they can do it again.

What’s new to the men’s team this year is that the Mules have a strong core of sprinters and hurdlers.

“That is the reason we’re so optimistic,” Hackett said.

Whereas the team has almost never been strong in this area before, it is one of the team’s strongest points in 2007. The team will look to Steinhart and a group of newcomers to score significant points in their respective events.

On the women’s side, Hackett expects the Mules to at least maintain their second-place indoor and outdoor conference standings from last year. His athletes believe they can take first place.

“We don’t want to get second,” said senior high jumper Katie Hesselink-Hicks. “We want to win, and we know we can.”

The Mules also know that, in order to achieve this goal, they have to do it without a pair of talented athletes who graduated last year; but they’re not worried.

“We lost two key players, and we gained them back with our freshmen,” said senior jumper Jacquelyn Inverso.

Inverso will be looked upon to continue to score points for Muhlenberg this season, coming off a year in which she earned Most Outstanding Performer honors for field events at the Centennial Conference Indoor Championships for the second time. She also won the triple jump indoors at the CC meet and finished eighth in the event at the ECAC Championships.

Inverso leads a team of jumpers that includes senior Rachel Drosdick, who holds the school record in outdoor (17-4) and indoor (17-10) long jumps, and junior Erika Koop, who tied for third in high jump and finished eighth in triple jump at the CC Championships last year. A talented group of freshmen are also expected to make an immediate impact on the team.

As for the sprinters, Hackett expects junior Emily Karel and sophomore Amanda Martini to lead the way. Last year the two ran as part of the 4x200 relay team that set a school record and qualified for the ECAC Championships with a time of 1:48.55.

Similar to the men, the women have improved upon a relative weakness coming into this year. The team has “more ability to score in distance,” Hackett believes, under the leadership of junior Sara Gearin. Gearin holds school records in the indoor 1,000 (3:08.80), 4x800 (9:43.72) and DMR (12:38.66), and last year she qualified for the ECACs in the outdoor 5,000.

Overall, 2007 promises to be a good year for the Muhlenberg track and field team.

“If everyone is on the same page, we will have a high quality of performance,” Hackett said.

More than anything else, however, the athletes believe that what will set them apart is their closeness as teammates and friends.

“We are all really good friends, and that is where the team part starts,” Inverso said.

Mercado added, “Good races and bad races, everyone is there to support everyone else through the long haul. And we won’t quit until it’s over. We run every race like it's our last.”


Questions or comments? Send mail to falk@muhlenberg.edu
Last updated January 8, 2007