The Slippery Rock men and women’s track teams jump right into their indoor season Saturday at the Youngstown State Invitational.
Last year, both indoor teams took second place at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championships. The women’s outdoor team came in third at the outdoor PSAC championship and the men’s outdoor team took second place again. The teams also received PSAC recognition with the top team GPA award.
Senior distance runner Kara Styles feels confident that the team is ready to make a run at the top spot in the conference.
“My goal for this season is to improve upon last year,” Styles said. “We’re looking to win this season and I feel like we have a team capable of doing that.”
The team is led by head coach John Papa, who is entering his 26th season coaching at Slippery Rock.
Papa and his staff remain in close contact with their athletes throughout the summer off-season to motivate them to push themselves to stay in top shape.
“Most of the athletes are self-motivated and will do the workouts,” Papa said. “In our sport, you cannot hide behind other athletes or fake being in shape. Athletes know that if they are not getting the job done on their own, they will get beat by athletes that are working harder.”
Senior sprinter and hurdler Dan Hedglin stays in competition shape throughout the off-season by weight lifting and cross training.
“I try not to run too much in those months because we spend nine months out of the year running,” Hedglin explained. “I rely on biking and swimming for most of my cardio until August.”
Once training for the season begins in September, the athletes have each other to lean on for motivation and support. Papa attributes much of the team’s success to the leadership provided by the upperclassmen.
Hedglin is entering his final season with the Rock and helps lead the team by encouraging the underclassmen to keep working hard and always try to get better. He uses his personal story as an example of how hard work pays off.
“When I was a freshman, I failed to make the indoor roster,” Hedglin said, “With hard work and diligent training, I was able to earn all-conference honors the following outdoor season.”
Hedglin looks forward to defending his indoor PSAC title in the hurdles and seeing the team go for the top spot in the conference. He says they have been training hard for the Youngstown meet and feels everyone is prepared.
“I feel like everyone is ready and itching to get a chance to see if our hard work has paid off,” Hedglin said. “I think the freshmen are ready to experience college competition for the first time.”
Papa said that the invitational will be a good starting point for the team.
“We will definitely have great competition,” Papa said. “There will be several Division I teams with plenty of outstanding athletes.”
The Rock will also get their first glimpse at several of their PSAC competitors, such as Clarion University and California University of Pennsylvania.
Papa anticipates that the Green and White will have a strong stance in most of their events. Many of the upperclassmen are returning PSAC champions and all conference performers.
Styles will use the opening meet to get an idea of where she stands amongst her competitors and hopes to qualify for the conference meet.
“I want to see where I am so that we can identify the things I need to improve before the bigger meets come around,” Styles said.
SRU will head to the Watson and Tressel Training Site for the Youngstown State Invitational Saturday with field events starting at 10 a.m. and running events