Indoor track and field is primed for success this weekend – even if its head coach doesn’t expect the team to take home gold.
The team will make the short trip to George Mason for the Atlantic 10 Championship this weekend. Head coach Terry Weir said because his team has a small roster and does not compete in any field events, he doesn’t expect to win the meet overall. But even if the team doesn’t end up on top of the podium, Weir said he is heading into the weekend ready to see individual successes from athletes.
“Going into championship season, they’re coming around at a great time,” Weir said. “Running the best races when we need to.”
The men’s and women’s teams have competed in five meets overall during the indoor season in preparation for the league finals.
For the team’s most recent competition, just six Colonials ran at the Princeton Invitational, something Weir said was “by design” to rest those who needed it while also providing one last chance to race for others before the A-10 Championship.
“Some people only had two races under their belt so I felt like they needed something more,” Weir said. “Just another race to get in before we get into the A-10s.”
The last week of practice before this weekend’s meet gives coaches and athletes a final opportunity to tune up and ensure that everyone is feeling physically and mentally prepared for the culmination of the indoor campaign, while also keeping one eye on the rest of the year, Weir said.
“Probably about 10 days out before a championship we pull back a little bit, we get their legs back under them, and freshen up a bit for this race,” Weir said. “But then they’ll be right back at it for prepping for the outdoor season, so we don’t want to pull back too much.”
Last season’s A-10 Championship in Rhode Island brought three individual titles – a program record – back to Foggy Bottom on the backs of the men’s roster.
The men’s team won the distance medley relay with 9:56.46, junior Colin Wills claimed the men’s mile in 4:09.29 and graduate student Carter Day captured the men’s 3,000-meter in 8:18.93.
With last year’s record-breaking performance in mind, Weir said he is expecting the distance medley relay to see another successful run, even though senior sprinter Ed Delavergne on the 400-meter leg is the only returning runner from the winning squad.
“The rest of them are all new so we’re hoping we can score in that,” Weir said. “It’ll be big for the young guys.”
The Colonials have yet to notch a first-place finish in an event since senior Andrew Weber and junior Jakob Coombes beat the field in the 3,000-meter run and the 800-meter race, respectively, at the Cappy Anderson Invitational in December. But GW has turned in seven top-10 finishes in meets since.
At the Virginia Military Institute Winter Relays earlier this month, junior Evan Garry was one of six Colonials on the men’s side who set a personal best. Garry ran the 500-meter in a time of 1:08.75 and the 400-meter with a 52.45 split, both personal-best marks.
Seniors Andrew Weber and Connor James put together second- and fourth-place performances, respectively, in the men’s mile at the Princeton Invitational last weekend with splits of 4:28.24 for Weber and 4:33.66 for James.
The women’s team, which was tipped for success this season by Weir, has been improving rapidly and appears to be peaking just in time for the A-10 Championship.
Junior Suzanne Dannheim is among the athletes hitting their stride right at the end of the season. Earlier this month, the Jacksonville, Fla. native took first place with a time of 9:53.87 in the 3,000-meter race and claimed second place in the mile last weekend at the Princeton Invitational, clocking a season-best 5:04.34.
“Suzanne’s got a really good shot to mix it up in the women’s 3K,” Weir said. “She’s been running very, very well this year.”
Dannheim isn’t the only women’s team runner who has found success recently. Senior Haley Brown captured fourth place in both the 3,000-meter at Virginia Military Institute and in the mile at Princeton, while sophomores Margaret Coogan and Brittany Wilkinson both set personal records at Princeton as well. Coogan ran a 5:13.35 mile while Wilkinson timed in at 2:20.62 in the 800-meter event, good for fifth and third place, respectively.
Even with a smaller roster, Weir said the Colonials have a chance to cause upsets on the track.
“On the women’s side, we’ll line up at the medley relay on the first night, and I think we’ve got a really good chance to score there and do really well,” Weir said. “I think we’re gonna have a shot at breaking our school record.”
The A-10 Championship kicks off at 2 p.m. Saturday at the George Mason University Field House. Athletes return to wrap up competition Sunday starting at 11:45 a.m.