Indoor Track and Field Season Preview

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Muhlenberg women’s indoor track and field team made huge strides a year ago, finishing in a program-best second place at the Centennial Conference Championships. When the 2014 season gets underway Friday at Kutztown, the Mules have their sights set on staying in the fast lane.

Amber Lee Wojtkowski
A four-time CC placewinner, Wojtkowski ranks third on the program's all-time performance list in the indoor 60-meter hurdles.
“First place is always the goal,” said senior co-captain Stephanie Carnevale. “I feel like we can do what we did last year. It just lets everyone in the conference know that they should be worried about Muhlenberg. Everyone has that same attitude.”

Muhlenberg, which came in seventh at the 2012 indoor meet, matched the largest turnaround in conference history with its runner-up campaign. In addition to Carnevale, who became just the program’s second indoor All-American with a seventh-place showing in the 60-meter hurdles at last year’s NCAA Championships, the Mules bring back several veteran contributors to go along with a bevy of talented newcomers poised to make an impact as they chase the team’s first-ever indoor league title.

“We definitely filled some holes and improved in a lot of areas,” Carnevale said of the Mules, who will host the Muhlenberg Invitational next Friday. “We just want to stay in shape and stay focused on the same goal.”

Carnevale, for her part, is coming off one of the best seasons ever by a Muhlenberg woman. She broke school records in the 55- and 60-meter hurdles indoors, won a gold and two silvers at the CC championships and became the first Mule to earn an All-America nod as a junior. Carnevale, however, has plenty of talent around her.

Senior co-captain Amber Lee Wojtkowski (hurdles) has shown tremendous improvement over the last three years, coming up with a sixth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles at last year#8217;s CC meet. Junior Kirsten Kuchera, meanwhile, earned three places there and enters the upcoming campaign as one of the Mules’ top sprinters. Senior co-captain Nicole Pisani (jumps/hurdles) was a member of placewinning relay teams both indoors and outdoors a year ago.

Then there’s fellow co-captain Nicki Cronin, an NCAA qualifier in both cross country and indoor track. Cronin is back after helping to set school records in the 4x800-meter relay and distance medley relay, in which she teamed with Kuchera to finish 10th at the national meet. Senior Lauren Zakheim (five CC places), junior Cassiah Sahl (three) and sophomore Claire Thornton (four) figure to be key members of the Mules’ mid-distance and distance units. Sophomore Melanie Tramontina was one of the team’s top distance runners as a rookie, shattering the school record in the indoor 5,000.

Darnell Davus
Davis, a three-year letterwinner on the Mule football team, has won eight places and four gold medals at the CC Championships.
In the field events, senior Erin Saucier has already established herself as one of the best pole vaulters in program history. She captured a bronze medal at the CC meet last season after winning gold both indoors and outdoors as a freshman, while sophomore Katrina Faust (jumps/hurdles) placed eighth in the pentathlon and landed on the all-time performance list in three indoor events, including the pole vault. Sophomore Ashley Riley just missed placing in jumps a year ago.

The men, meanwhile, are looking to improve upon last season’s sixth-place performance at the CC meet.

“Ideally, our goal is always to finish number one no matter what,” said senior co-captain Max Suitovsky, who garnered two places indoors last year. “We always want to finish at the top, but you have to put in the effort in the preseason and over the summer. I can’t say we will be number one, but I can promise that we’re going to work the hardest and be the most prepared team.”

Senior co-captain Andrew Onimus, a four-time gold medalist at the league meet, is back to lead the sprinters. He’ll be joined by senior Jake Ullmann, who teamed with Onimus on school record-holding 4x400-meter relay teams both indoors and outdoors before missing last season due to injury. Senior Darnell Davis and Suitovsky will also look to build on strong seasons in the sprints. Senior Jeffrey Phillips has placed three times in sprints and hurdles at the indoor championships, including a gold in the 4x400-meter relay as a freshman.

Senior Jarrett Felix, juniors Kieran Newcomb and Keenan Mease and sophomore Alex Weiner are back to head the mid-distance and distance corps.

In the field, junior Jacob Miller-Sobel is coming off eighth-place finishes in the indoor pole vault in each of his first two seasons, while sophomore Brandon Tauber placed at both CC meets in the high jump. Sophomores Daniel Cano (outdoors) and Rami Hamdan (indoors) both placed in shot put at the CC meet, and senior Scott Reutter, who took eighth in the heptathlon last year, is a versatile athlete capable of placing in multiple events.

After months of waiting, it’s safe to say both Mule squads are eagerly anticipating the first starting gun of the new season.

“We’re all very excited,” said Suitovsky. “We’ve been practicing together since August, and it’s been so long since we’ve had the taste of competition. We can’t wait to get back out there and make some things happen.”