Season Preview: Track Teams Optimistic

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The 2012 indoor track and field season, which begins for Muhlenberg at Kutztown on Friday night, comes with a slight change in the distance of events. Gone are the 55-meter sprint and 55-meter hurdles, both replaced by 60-meter events as Division III joins Divisions I and II, which made the switch in 1999 and 2002, respectively.

It’s not just the sprinters and hurdlers – all members of the Mule teams hope to go a little bit farther this season.

“We’re all pretty positive,” said senior Michael Baer. “We’ve been good

Alex Price
Senior Alex Price, a men's co-captain, ran on the distance-medley relay team that finished fourth at the 2011 CC Indoor Championships.
at conferences the past few years, coming in third. This year we think we can do better than that.”

The men’s team came in fourth at the Centennial Conference indoor meet in 2009, Baer’s freshman season, and has placed third at all five CC meets since. The women also had a string of thirds, indoors and outdoors in both 2009 and 2010, before slipping to seventh last year when their squad size was down.

But an increase in numbers has the team looking at lower numbers.

“Last year we had such a small group of girls competing at the conference meet,” said junior Colette Faust. “Just with the size of this year’s team, we’re really looking forward to it.”

Of the 24 members of the men’s team who scored points at the 2011 CC meets, 19 return, and of the five who don’t, three scored only in relays.

Muhlenberg looks especially strong in the

Kimberlee Yalango
Yalango, a women's co-captain for the second year, placed 13 times at CC meets in her first three years, with four silvers.
sprints, where senior Peter Rice, the CC Most Outstanding Performer both indoors and outdoors last year and a school record-holder in eight events, is joined by fellow past CC gold medalists in Baer, senior Kyle Sullivan, junior Isaiah Vaughn and sophomores Darnell Davis, Andrew Onimus, Jeffrey Phillips and Jake Ullmann.

“We also brought in a lot of young sprinters,” said Baer, who won gold with the 4x400 and placed in the hurdles and high jump at the 2011 CC indoor meet. “We definitely have people who can score in the distance events. We should compete for gold in all the relays.”

In the field events, senior Marc Brookland holds the school record in the triple jump and was the CC indoor long jump champion in 2010. Junior Ryan Hellings was a CC placewinner in both the pole vault and high jump.

Like the women, the men have a large squad, which should pay dividends at the CC championship meets in February and May.

“It’s a long season – it starts in October, and sometimes you can lose your focus,” said Baer. “But we’ve done a good job keeping in mind why we’re practicing.”

While practicing in October and November, the members of the women’s team could enjoy the phenomenal success of the cross country team, which had its best season ever. Now the cross country runners will try to spark the track and field team to similar improvement.

The Mules return 11 athletes who earned places at last year’s CC meets, including sophomore Erin Saucier, the indoor gold medalist in the pole vault. But don’t expect them all to be competing in the same events.

“When there’s not that many people, sometimes people get thrown into events that aren’t really their strengths,” said Faust. “This year we can focus more on what we’re good at.”

Stephanie Carnevale proved to be good at a number of events as a freshman, placing in the CC meets in the hurdles, sprints and long jump. Faust is a four-time CC placewinner in the high jump (including a first-place showing indoors in 2010), and fellow juniors Tara Keegan (multi) and Lexie Daniells (sprints) have also been consistent contributors. Senior Melissa Miller and junior Bre Biondi are veterans in the pole vault.

Senior Kimberlee Yalango, juniors Samantha Mayden and Erica Bash and sophomore Nicki Cronin are among the top cross country runners who should head the mid-distance and distance corps, while senior Nicolette Miller returns from study abroad.

Muhlenberg appears poised to improve its standing at the CC Championships, even if it has to invent new words to do so.

“I feel like that’s accomplishable,” said Faust, before thinking a few seconds more and changing it to “I feel like it’s a realistic goal.”