Coach John Papa and his team will have their first competition in a very shortened season on March 27 at Lock Haven. It will be one of only six competitions that will take place this season, including the Dave Labor invitational, the Bill Lennox invite, and the Slippery Rock invitational.
“A big part of coaching is developing and maintaining relationships, and last semester was tough, and it was not what we’re used to,” Papa said. “In my opinion it wasn’t good, and we had the same negative type effect that academics had, but we did the best with what we were given.”
And the Slippery Rock track and field team was given the same thing as everyone else last season in an abrupt end to the year. Last year, The Rock didn’t get to compete in an in-season track competition as the season was called off just one day before the Coastal Carolina invite, which was scheduled to be a two-day event in Myrtle Beach. It was one of ten competitions that were in place for last season.
“Right now, we’re all in the mindset that anything can happen, but back then we obviously were not and even I was thinking that something like this could never happen. And think about it, as college students you’re so worried about what’s going on with you that you’re almost in your own little bubble,” Papa said.
At this time last year, the track and field team were getting ready to start their outdoor season and they were coming off of a really successful indoor season, and then the unthinkable happened. As all-around them other teams’ seasons were being canceled, Papa didn’t want to believe that Slippery Rock would get that call, but they did only a matter of hours after other teams from all over the country found out.
“We got through the indoor season and our ladies actually won the championship and the men placed pretty high, and we were really riding high off of that,” Papa said.
The indoor season concluded only 11 days before the outdoor season was canceled. The boys had 12 particpants qualify for the PSAC championship including John Eakin and Brennan McTighe in shot put. McTighe also qualified in the weight throw and he was the only boy to qualify in two different events. The girls had 16 participants qualify including three participants in three different events. Jena Reinheimer and Abby Way qualified in both the shot put and weight throw.
In the indoor championships, the girls had Cecily Greggs place first in the high jump and she’s someone that Papa expects to make a real splash this upcoming season. She’s been conference champion in the high jump twice already.
Jena Reinheimer, who placed 12th in the shot put in the indoor championship last season will also be back. And a freshman who has already made a real impact is Jamie Macecevic, who does pole vault.
“[Jamie] has already vaulted high enough to be the best vaulter in the entire conference if she vaults to the level that we know she’s capable of vaulting,” Papa said. “We have a whole group of people who are going to do great things for us this season.”
On the men’s side, in the PSAC championship in the indoor competition last year, they nearly ran the table in the heptathlon with Jason Goodman placing first, Dylan Colcombe placing second, and Ryan McQuown placing fourth. In total the boys finished with 23 points from that one event. However, it wasn’t good enough to earn first place in the competition as the men eventually finished third, but Papa thinks that those results are something that they can build off of and he a lot of praise for multiple players on the team.
“[Ryan] McQuown, [Jason] Goodman, [John] Eakin, and so many other people who are unproven are going to do really good for us this season, so we’ve got the fire power and we’re just going to see how it rolls out,” Papa said.
While some athletes won’t get back out to running, throwing, or jumping competitively until the end of March, there are a select few who returned to action for the cross country team on March 6 at the California University of Pennsylvania invite. They’ll also hope to compete at the PSAC championship on March 20.
Because they didn’t compete in the fall due to the season being canceled, they’ll get a very short, abridged season that will culminate in the span of only two weeks. And the first track meet is scheduled to happen on the only a couple of weeks later.
“We’re going to have a scrimmage race and then we’re going to have the championship really soon after, so it’s nothing close to what a typical cross country season should be and obviously it’s better than nothing,” Papa said.
While he’s excited to have a cross country season, he’s also being realistic and believes that most schools will be focusing on the upcoming track and field season more than the cross country events. Though, he is happy for the seniors that they get a chance to finish cross country out unlike so many others around the country.
Recently the team has been able to be back together, but like many other teams only in small groups. This is actually something Papa has actually taken a liking to as he’s been able to see all of the athletes. He’s been able to see all sorts of events, when in a normal year he’d only be dealing with distance. This change has been helpful for Papa in getting a feel for the team, and because of what he’s seen he thinks that his team is poised to be one of the best in the conference.
“I think part of it is that we’ve had all these restraints and to be completely honest, we’ve already been so successful. We’ve been able to break up into groups and practice and that’s been great, and we have no idea where we’re going to finish this season, but we have a good idea that it’ll towards the front in both men’s and women’s,” Papa said.