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Track & field championship preview

The Muhlenberg track and field teams are set to compete in the Centennial Conference Championships

Friday, February 28, 2014 01:47 PM

The envelope, please.

“In the category of Best Supporting Hurdler, the winner is ... Amber Lee Wojtkowski!”

You won’t hear that on Sunday night’s Oscars broadcast; it will be one of those awards that’s presented off-camera prior to the show. Specifically, that afternoon at Haverford, site of the Centennial Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Wojtkowski has shown tremendous improvement as a hurdler during her career at Muhlenberg, lowering her outdoor time by almost two seconds since her freshman season. Indoors, she ranks third on the Mules’ all-time performance list in the 60-meter hurdles and has placed in the top six at the CC Championships each of the last two years.

Yet in almost 40 career meets, the senior co-captain has been the first Muhlenberg athlete across the finish line in a hurdles race only twice. That’s because fellow senior co-captain Stephanie Carnevale is the school record-holder in the hurdles, the defending CC indoor champion and an All-American.

“It’s hard sometimes always being behind her,” Wojtkowski admitted. “But I’d rather be behind her than someone on another team!

“She’s definitely an awesome teammate and a great asset for the team,” Wojtkowski added. “We’re both doing well and both improving week by week, and that’s all you can really ask for.”

Wojtkowski and Carnevale are both ranked in the CC’s top five in the 60-meter hurdles heading into this weekend’s championship meet, where they hope to lead the Mules to another successful showing. Muhlenberg made a big leap last year, tying for second after having finished seventh the year before.

“We lost a lot of key seniors, but we gained a lot of good freshmen,” noted Wojtkowski. “We’re one of the smaller teams but we have a good spread of talent, and I feel we’re well represented in all the areas.”

Indeed, Muhlenberg has at least one athlete in the top 10 on the CC performance list in most events. Carnevale, tied for first in the hurdles and fifth in the 60, is one of three Mules scheduled to compete in two events in which they’re ranked in the top 10; the others are sophomore Ashley Riley (long jump and triple jump) and freshman Jacqueline Jones (high jump and pole vault). Senior Erin Saucierand freshman Claudia Theriault are tied for third in the pole vault.

The team will look to continue its history of performing well at the championship meets.

“If we could remain consistent and stay up in the top three, that would be awesome,” said Wojtkowski. “We have the potential to do really well.”

If Scott Reutter of the Muhlenberg men’s team won an Academy Award, it would be for Best Director – of his meet schedule. The senior multi athlete often has to run from event to event, stopping to change sneakers on occasion.

“Coach and I have to go through the schedule every week to see which events might interfere with each other,” he said. “This past week, the triple jump and the pole vault were going on at the same time, and I could wear spikes for one but not the other.

“I like being able to start at the beginning and go through the whole meet. I don’t like sitting and waiting for my event to start.”

All the running around has paid dividends for Reutter, who will compete in the heptathlon and 60-meter hurdles this weekend. He has set a personal best in all but one of the seven heptathlon events and ranks in the top 25 on the CC performance lists in six different events. He is poised to improve on his eighth-place finish last year in the heptathlon, the first time the event was contested at the CC meet.

Reutter is one of only three returning placewinners in an individual event scheduled to compete for the Mules, who came in sixth last winter.

“Overall we’re just trying to do as best as we can,” said Reutter. “We have a very young team. There’s a lot of young talent so a lot of this year has been getting them accustomed to running in college.”

Some of that young talent includes freshman Trevor Luck and sophomore Brandon Tauber, who are third and tied for fourth, respectively, on the CC performance list in the high jump. Sophomore Daniel Cano is fourth in the shot put, and freshman Jake Waleski is tied for fourth in the 60 meters.

The top ranking enjoyed by a Mule is second by Cody Geyer – a junior in his first year on the team – in the 60.

How well the Mules do will be a product of their preparation, both physically and mentally.

“[The seniors] have been trying to keep everyone on a level head and look through everything with a positive lens,” said Reutter. “Compared to years past, the general attitude of the team is a lot more positive. If someone had an off week, we tell them, get it out of your system now. You’re just setting yourself up for a great performance at the conference meet.”

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