The indoor track and field season will soon resume as the runners continue to prepare for the long season ahead. The Ravens competed in the UIndy Season Opener back in December, but have had more than a month off between events. They will compete in the indoor season and have a short break before kicking off their outdoor campaign.
In the preseason coaches poll, the men’s team was selected to finish fifth, while the women were picked to finish sixth in the conference. Despite both teams being picked to finish in the middle of the pack, the players believe that they are capable of much more.
Junior runner Ian Leatherman has been one of the best on the team since arriving on campus. He believes that no matter how the team is ranked, they can compete with anyone.
“Most of the seasons I have been here we have been selected to finish further back in conference than I believed we could,” said Leatherman. “I’m used to it by now and usually don’t pay much attention to it, although I do use the pre-season polls as a benchmark after the season. In general, a good season is one where we are finishing as we were expected to, and a great season ends with us doing better than people thought we would in the pre-season.”
Head coach Sol Stephens has prepared his team by getting back to the basics. According to freshman runner Tim Jackson, working on the fundamentals of running will give them the edge they need when competing in a close race.
“We have been training to drastically improve our running form and endurance,” said Jackson. “We do drills to aid in our speed at the end of our races, and we work on coming out of the blocks to improve our reaction time.”
The renewed focus on the fundamentals of track and field might be due to the turnover the team has seen over the last few seasons.
Leatherman commented on the fact that during his time on campus, the team has shrunk significantly. The women’s team has also seen a fair amount of turnover going into this new season.
The men will compete with a roster of just 24 runners and jumpers while the women have only 16. Typically, the combined team size is closer to 50 athletes.
“This year our team gained a lot of new faces that will contribute to our performances at meets,” said Tori Baver, a sophomore sprinter and jumper. “That being said, the amount of returners that we have should allow us to have a good finish in the conference. We have worked very hard in the offseason and I am excited for the outcome.”
Baver was named as a player to watch for the Ravens, along with Mariah Murray, Krista Franklin, Ryley Burkhart and Emily Kelley. On the men’s side, Ryan Ramsey, Jona Odell, Joshua Thomas and Hunter Loller joined Leatherman as athletes to watch.
While track and field is often times viewed as more of an individual sport, the players believe that they have maintained a team-first mentality.
“The team has shrunk a bit over the years,” added Leatherman. “But those that are still here are much more dedicated as a unit. The overall focus of the team has shifted from a large number of less important things to competing and succeeding as a team.”
The long stretch of season for the runners continues on Saturday with a meet in Ohio, with the outdoor season beginning shortly after spring break. Even though the team will get less than a month off, the runners view indoor and outdoor as two completely different seasons, both of which being equally important.
“The indoor season does prepare us for the outdoor season but holds its own importance,” said Baver. “At the end of indoor we can see where we’re at for the outdoor season, but we also push for the HCAC indoor title just as hard as the outdoor one.”
AU will host just two meets this year, both in February. The team will be making several out-of-state trips, including a possible trip to Roxbury, Massachusetts for the NCAA Indoor Championships. Even with all of the traveling ahead, the runners and throwers feel ready for the next five months of competition.