Track & Field jumpstarts 2020 season in Houston

Photo by Martina Almeida

The beginning of a new year is a time of looking forward to change, and for many student athletes at Trinity, it is also the start of a new season. Track and field opened their 2020 season Jan. 17 at the Leonard Hilton Memorial Invitational indoor meet at the University of Houston.

The meet offered a glimpse at what’s to come in the months ahead as the team competes in both indoor and outdoor meets. There were strong performances from Trinity athletes in a variety of events. Highlights from the running events include a personal record set by senior Androniki Defteraiou in the indoor 60-meter hurdles and first-year Ethan Gilmore finishing first in his heat and 11th overall in the 400-meter dash.

Trinity was well-represented in the field events as well. In the long jump, first-year Jordyn White placed 15th in the women’s long jump, and sophomore Sean Majors earned 10th in long jump, narrowly missing his indoor personal best. Sophomore Robert Slaybaugh also came close to a new personal indoor record when he placed eighth in shot-put at 13.86 meters.

Although only a handful of athletes competed in the Houston meet, their results give an indication of what to expect from the team in the upcoming season.

“[You can expect to see a] team that is going to compete every weekend and put up a lot of good marks,” said head coach Marcus Whitehead.

In addition to fierce competition, there is a lot of anticipated growth. According to sophomore distance runner Ardi Saunders, a large incoming class of student-athletes forecasts growth in the entire team.

“I say the biggest thing [you’ll see this season] is a lot of growth. We’ve got a really big freshman class of guys and girls coming in, and we hope they push our upperclassmen, and we hope to see another SCAC Championship on the guys and girls side, quite honestly,” Saunders said.

The Tigers hope that as the season moves forward and athletes continue to improve, the team will move forward and compete not only in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) championships but also in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Championships as well.

“SCAC for track is a big thing, but we also have been discussing putting more stress on the latter part of the season, what’s outside of that, like Nationals. We really want to set our eyes forward on not only just being the best in our conference but ALSO trying to be the best people in the nation and trying to send closer to a dozen people to the national meet, instead of four or five,” Saunders said.

Integral to achieving this goal is the team’s mindset. According to first-year Selina Noe, who came in 20th in the long jumps at last Friday’s meet, motivation and focus are key elements for the team.

“I would have to say that motivation is the biggest factor. Our motto for the team is ‘earn it,’ and so we believe that every practice makes you better. Even if you have to take a longer break, it doesn’t matter as long as you finish the rep and finish strong,” Noe said.

Another key element of the team’s mindset, according to Saunders, is a healthy sense of competition.

“We talk to each other on runs constantly, we eat almost every meal together, so there is a very strong bond of closeness that we have and we want each other to get better, but in the same way there is still team rivalry and competition,” Saunders said. “So even though outside of hard runs we’re amicable and really care about each other, we really want to beat each other. It pushes us not only to be competitors in races but to be competitors in practice.”

This mindset extends from practice to competition, and according to Whitehead, a balanced schedule and an emphasis on competition keep athletes focused and performing well.

“We stay on the team about not wasting any opportunity to compete. We also feel like we have a schedule that’s balanced competitively for all the student-athletes on the team,” Whitehead said.

The team takes to the track and field again Friday, Jan. 24 for the two-day FasTrak Collegiate Invitational meet in Houston. They also will be showing their love for the sport when they compete at the Howie Ryan Invitational on Valentine’s Day. The Tigers finally come to their home turf on March 6 for the Trinity Invitational. In the long month and a half between now and the next time the Tigers compete at home, the team urges the community to still show support for track and field.

“The biggest thing, since most people can’t attend those out-of-town meets, is just to care about us when we are here. To ask how we went or what we’re excited for, how we’re feeling even,” Saunders said. “Just knowing that people care about us, both as individuals and athletes, makes a huge difference and makes us feel cared about and a part of Trinity.”