The Slippery Rock Track and Field season made its long-awaited return Saturday as the team hosted its first meet since 2019 at the Slippery Rock William Lennox Track.
“We are getting ready to be a significant force in the PSAC Championships,” head coach John Papa said.
As Papa alluded, the men and women both faired well, an impressive second meet for both teams. But Papa’s staff didn’t know what to expect coming into the season.
“We didn’t know what we were going to find with our team,” Papa said. “We have several athletes that didn’t come back this semester. We had some athletes we thought we’re going to have, and so did other teams, so it’s a kind of a conference-wide thing.”
One of the highlights came from newcomer Danielle Collier, who currently holds the best javelin throw in the nation among the women.
Collier is a graduate student who had a year of eligibility left. Collier graduated from Miami University (Ohio) last May but did not get to have her senior season due to the pandemic.
With the strong start from Collier and the ladies, the reining Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Champions are looking to get back to that spot again this season and possibly bring back another blue trophy, Papa said.
“We’ve pretty much been the dominant team in the conference,” Papa said. “Not winning every year, but many of the years. We again, look to go there and compete for one of the top two spots.”
Over on the men’s side, in each of the throwing events, the men had finishers inside the top five.
In the shot put, sophomore John Eakin placed second with a career-best 15.89 meter throw. Sophomore Dylan Close also finished second in the javelin with a 56.03 meter throw.
Shippensburg University has been dominant on the men’s side, winning a PSAC record 11 straight PSAC Championships. In 2019, Slippery Rock won the second day of the championships and led most of the weekend, looking to steal the title away from Shippensburg. The Raiders ended up coming back and winning by a 31.5 margin, but coach Papa sees the team being in the same situation again this May.
“We found that we are kind of right where we typically are,” Papa said. “Shippensburg has been [on the men’s side] the powerhouse of the conference. They’re up there again and we are going to battle them for the title. But there’s a really good chance we are in the top two.”
Rounding out the scorers for the women, including Collier, five women finished with NCAA provisional marks and five wins.
Finishing behind Collieri in javelin was sophomore Trinity Clark, who placed second with a 44.69 meter toss. In third was freshman Skylar Sherry with a 42.47 meter throw, both good enough for the NCAA provisional mark.
Sticking to throwers, sophomore Jena Reinheimer threw the hammer 48.69 meters for the win. Reinheimer also finished second in the discus with a 42.77 meter toss. Following Reinherimer in the hammer was sophomore Rachel Hutchinson, who had a 47.99 meter throw. Closing out the throwers, freshman Sarah Corrie finished third in the shot put with a 12.08 meter throw.
Junior Reagan Hess recorded her career-best long jump with a result of 5.95 meters. This won Hess first place Saturday and also put her in fifth place overall on the national lists of long jumps this season.
After Hess was freshman Samantha Gilbert, who recorded a 5.39 meter jump.
In the high jump, sophomore Cecily Greggs won with a 1.64 meter clearance, just shy of the NCAA provisional mark. Following Greggs in the high jump was fellow sophomore Katie Bonczyk, who finished fourth with a 1.54 meter clearance.
On the track, sophomore Lexie Firment finished second with a time of 19:41.73 in the 5,000-meter run. Freshman Thai-Lin-Perce finished in fourth in the 100-meter dash with a 12.67 time
Back to throwers for the men, freshman Eric Schultz placed fifth behind Eakin in the shot put with a 14.44 meter throw. Junior Alec Morris finished with a career-best throw in the hammer with a 55.13 meter toss, locking up fourth.
In the jumping events, freshman Bryan Dworek finished second with a 7.10 meter long jump. In the triple jump freshman, Zack Duda and junior Daron Cooper finished third and fourth respectively, Duda with 13.39 meters and Cooper with 12.18 meters.
In the pole vault, freshman Dan Hyatt and junior Ryan McQuown finished inside the top five with the clearances. Hyatt placed with a 4.36 meter clearance and McQuown finished fifth with a 3.91 meter clearance.
On the track, SRU finished in second in three events. First in the 100 meter dash as Dworek finished in 10.82 seconds. Senior Gunner Coleman had a 57.92 second time in second place in the 400-meter hurdles. Freshman Nathan Eadie also finished the 3000 meter steeplechase in 10:36.15 to grab another second place.
Although the season is shortened, SRU still looks to be a dominant force for both the men and women come May.
The team will return to action this Sunday at the Indiana University (Pa.) invite in at Indiana, the teams first meet there since April 2017.