Coming off a second-place finish at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) championship for the indoor season, the Slippery Rock University men’s outdoor track team looks build off their success in hopes of taking down Shippensburg, who The Rock lost to by a mere 1.5 points in the indoor season.
The Rock men will look to end an eight-year championship streak held by currently held by Shippensburg, who beat The Rock by over 80 points in last year’s PSAC outdoor championship.
Head coach John Papa, who has been the head coach for about 31 years, said he “expects that our team will be in contention for the PSAC team championship. We were close this indoor season and our team believes we have what it takes to be champions.”
The Rock men will look to senior Ryan Thompson as the leader of the team. Thompson was named the Overall Most Outstanding Athlete at the PSAC championship in the indoor season after he anchored the distance medley relay to a second-place finish, placed third in the 3,000-meter relay and won the mile run event. Thompson was also the only member of the men’s team to be invited to the National Championship. Other top performers in the distance events for The Rock include freshman John Marenkovic, junior Jeremy Parsons and senior Tyler Palenchak. The sprints and hurdle events will be headed by senior Jake Vanhouten, freshman Ian Nieves, sophomore Colin Darby, senior Brandon Vanderbook and junior James Chandler. In the throwing events, graduate student David Reinhardt and senior JJ Ollio will look to be the top performers in those events. The top performers in the pole vault event include junior Jordan Pacheco and junior Andrew Koksal. The Rock’s top jumpers include senior Adam Leeper, junior Caleb Smithco and sophomore Jesse Romanchak. Dylan Colcombe and Eric Lee round out the top performers in the decathlon.
Many of The Rock men coming off outstanding individual performances at the PSAC championship and when asked about having a target on his back for the outdoor season, Pacheco, who won the pole vault event, said, “I kinda feel like there’s always been a target on my back, maybe more so now.”
This seems to be the case especially for the athletes such as Pacheco, Leeper and Thompson, who all won their individual events.
The Rock looks to kick off the outdoor season in Wilmington, N.C. for the Seahawk Invitational.
Papa, who will be in Birmingham, Ala. for the National Championships during the meet, said that “the first meet is typically the one where we are just getting back into the groove, but you never know, anything can happen.”
The meet, and season, begin on Friday, March 10.