Indoor track and field squads prioritize solo races ahead of A-10 Championship

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Junior Margaret Coogan sprints at the indoor track and field A-10 Championship last February.

Men’s and women’s indoor track and field will focus on individual races and performances on a relatively small team.

With only 21 rostered members on the men’s side and 15 on the women’s team, the Colonials cannot fill competitors in each event, which disadvantages the team in scoring at the championship. Head coach Terry Weir said that while the team wants a spot on the podium, the championships are more about personal development for his programs.

“In track we want to develop our individuals that we have,” head coach Terry Weir said. “Can they score at the A-10? Can they be A-10 champions? Can we get them to the NCAA Championships? But it’s going to be very hard, just with the numbers that we have. It’s not feasible to win A-10 championships.”

Last season, VCU nabbed the championship on the women’s side with a 43-person roster, and George Mason won the championships on the men’s side. The Patriots’ program boasts 53 competitors.

The indoor track and field team at GW is in its sixth season of competition after its founding in 2014. Since its inception, GW has finished last at every men’s A-10 indoor track and field championship.

The women earned a program-best 11th in 2017 on the backs of gold-medal performances from 2019-graduate Halley Brown and 2018-graduate Miranda DiBiasio in the mile and 5,000 meter, respectively. Both runners set GW program records at the time, but this season senior runner Suzanne Dannheim rewrote the record books, claiming a 4:52.79 in the mile and 16:35.48 in the 5,000 meter.

Coming off the highest finish at the cross country A-10 Championships in program history, distance events are GW’s sweet spot.

Junior runner Margaret Coogan said the women’s team is aiming to place high in individual distance events rather than focusing on the overall performance of the team. Coogan said the women are looking to claim top 10 finishes in the mile, 3,000 meter and distance medley events.

“Since we are distance focused, we’re just really going to focus on the events that we can win,” Coogan said.

For the women, only four players have competed in sprinting events and none participate in jumps, hurdles or field events, like long jump and pole vault. Coogan said the women’s squad is taking a “team-centered” approach and focusing on placing high in individual races.

“Let’s see how many girls we can get in the top 10 in the 3K, or let’s see how many girls we can get in the top 10 in the mile for example, or the 1K,” Coogan said. “There’s also relays for indoor, so we’re going to focus a lot on our distance medley relay.”

Despite the uphill battle the Colonials face, Coogan said the close-knit dynamic of the small team motivates them to perform.

“We all are committed, we all love each other and care about each other and we all want each other to do well,” Coogan said. “We all compete for the team, and I think that definitely carried over into our first two meets and it’ll definitely carry over into A-10s as well.”

The same holds true for the men’s team. Of the 21 players on the men’s side, 18 are distance or middle-distance runners.

One player regularly competes in non-running events on the men’s team, according to the roster. Freshman jumper Miles Grant became the first Colonial to compete in the high jump, setting the standard at 1.86 meters in the event. He also smashed GW’s long jump record, recording a 6.92 meter.

With just five collegiate meets under his belt, Grant’s performance earned him an A-10 Rookie of the Week award Feb. 11.

At the VMI Indoor Classics Friday and Saturday, Grant placed in the top 20 in both the high and long jump. Grant said he’s focusing on improving his power and endurance, running a mile to and from the practice track and enduring in sprint workouts.

“Making sure I’m taking care of myself and then also trying to work on, especially the triple jump and the high jump,” Grant said. “I need to get them a little practice in. We have a lot of competition in that, with the A-10 conference, so trying to get back in the pit and just get better.”

Through five competitions this season, the Colonials have broken 11 school records. The women’s squad inked five new program best times, with junior Kathryn Nohilly and Dannheim breaking two records each.

The men’s team snapped four records, including senior Jared Nelson’s 7.40 in the 60-meter dash and graduate student Wesley Robinson’s 14:45.93 in the 5,000 meter.

As the championships draw closer, Weir said he begins to wind practices down to ensure his runners are fresh. He added that he also starts to restructure workouts into smaller groups so runners can focus more on their individual events.

“As we get down to our championship meets our groups go from one or two to three workout groups to smaller and smaller,” Weir said. “Instead of four groups out there we’ll have closer to eight, 10 different groups doing different things. It’s just getting more specialized with the races they’re going to do.”

The Colonials will compete for the conference crown Feb. 29 and March 1 in Kingston, Rhode Island.

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