Track and field capped its season with stand-out individual performances at the Atlantic 10 Championships this weekend in Fairfax, Va.
The Colonials took home three first-place finishes at the two-day meet – two of which belonged to senior Carter Day.
As a team, GW finished in seventh place out of 11 teams on the men’s side with 55 points. The women finished in last place out of 13 teams with four points. Last year, the men finished in 11th place and the women finished in 12th.
The team’s low total was a result of competing in a limited number of events. The men’s side of the team competed in five out of 22 possible events, while the women competed in three.
“We don’t need three athletes to cover all 22 events. We can pick and choose what we’re very good at and hold our own,” head coach Terry Weir said. “Today, we’re beating teams with full rosters of field events and sprints, so it shows that we can win and that model does work.”
Day said the Colonials’ team score was not indicative of the success they found at the individual level or their overall improvement during the season.
“As a team, our mindset is on cloud nine right now,” he said. “Coming from where we were last year, it’s just like a whole new experience for this team, and it’s a complete 180 from where we were years ago.”
Day won gold in the 3,000-meter steeplechase Saturday with a time of 8:58.40, making him the first man to win an outdoor event at the A-10 Championship in program history. Day was followed by graduate student Matt Lange’s fourth place finish, clocking in at 9:10.08.
Day’s second gold medal came in the 5000-meter race Sunday, which he finished in 14:37.56. His best time of the year prior to the meet, 14:22.45, had him slated to finish seventh out of the field of 33 runners.
“He tactically ran great, he kept his head and kept his composure,” Weir said. “Being a two-time A-10 champion, that is a very hard double to do, and it really just says a lot about his fitness level.”
Junior Andrew Weber, who usually competes in the 5,000-meter race with Day, instead ran his first-ever 10,000-meter event Saturday. He placed seventh with a time of 31:20.75.
The Colonials posted a 1-2-3 finish in the men’s 1,500-meter race, with senior Ryan DePinto winning the gold and breaking the program record with a time of 3:51.35. Sophomore Colin Wills and senior Chris Shaffer finished in second and third, respectively, with times of 3:51.58 and 3:51.76.
An injury sidelined DePinto for much of the season, but Weir said his first-place finish despite missing meets is a testament to his resilience.
“Ryan DePinto has gone through a lot, he’s been hurt and he hasn’t had a whole lot of wins and a whole lot of positive things in his running, and now he’s an A-10 champion,” Weir said. “I’m just so proud of him and so happy to see how he’s fought through some hard parts of the season.”
On the women’s side, sophomore Suzanne Dannheim finished sixth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 10:41.23, breaking the program record that she had set last month. Freshman Kathryn Nohilly finished behind her in 12th place at 11:08.65.
Dannheim – who earned All-Conference honors for her steeplechase performance Saturday – said the team’s success this weekend against athletes from schools with full track programs shows GW should be taken seriously.
“It just says so much about the raw talent we have and about the drive that we have and the team’s bond,” she said.
The team’s other top-10 finish came from junior Halley Brown, whose 4:31.54 split in the 1,500-meter race was good for eighth place in the event.
The top 48 athletes in each event across the nation after next weekend’s Eastern College Athletic Conference meet will qualify for the NCAA East Preliminary Championships. Dannheim will compete in the steeplechase at the ECAC meet in hopes of improving her time to qualify for the NCAA Preliminary Championships, she said.
Day, who is currently ranked No. 27 in the NCAA East Region in the steeplechase, is positioned to qualify for the NCAA East Preliminary Championships after his A-10 Championship showing. He would be the first runner in men’s or women’s program history to qualify for the national meet if his time holds up.
Day said the exponential growth of the program during his four years is evidenced by the team’s ability to compete with other A-10 teams and contend for spots in the national championship.
“When our team came together as a whole and realized that, that’s when a switch flipped and we just started running the way we are now,” Day said. “That feeling of confidence and mindset change that we can do this, that’s what really pushed us over as a team.”
The Colonials return to action at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Friday in Princeton, N.J.