Track prepares for Papa’s last run

Published by Joe Skillicorn, Date: March 3, 2022
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The Slippery Rock University indoor track teams rounded out their season, placing second at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) championships.

Both the men’s and women’s programs finished as runners up at Edinboro University, in what wrapped up a demanding indoor campaign.

Cecily Greggs won her third career title in the women’s high jump after recording a new personal best of 1.74 meters. Coach John Papa waxed lyrically about the senior from Stoneboro.

“She’s been a great leader for us,” Papa said. “She’s a great competitor and she completely stole the show.”

Greggs will now take part in the Track and Field National Championships in Pittsburg, Kansas on March 11.

The women’s team was also able to leapfrog California University of Pennsylvania (Cal-U) in the final event of the day, the 4×400 meter relay. Having entered the final event trailing to California, The Rock needed to gain three points in order to move above the Vulcans. Madison Olsen, Lorna Speigle, Rachel Veneziano and Morgan Donatelli succeeded in their quest, as The Rock moved clear of their opponents to tie in second place in the final standings.

Slippery Rock were up against it from the start, with Edinboro coming out fiercely, scoring ninety-six points, with eighty-five of those points coming in the distance races alone. Slippery Rock and Cal-U ended in a joint second place with seventy-six points with Millersville University of Pennsylvania and Kutztown University of Pennsylvania finishing up with sixty-three and sixty points respectively. Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania finished sixth in the standings with fifty-seven points.

In the men’s events, Jason Goodman was the star of the show as he secured his third PSAC title, winning the heptathlon and taking his career points tally to a total of 5,002. John Eakin was also able to secure his first PSAC title in the shot put, with a throw of 16.65 meters. Joshua Gose also recorded a personal best.

There were no members of the men’s track team that qualified for the national championships. Instead, their attention now turns to the outdoor season which will start later this month.

Elsewhere in the men’s indoor track, Shippensburg won it’s eleventh indoor championship, totaling a staggering two hundred and ten points. Slippery Rock finished up second in the table scoring an impressive ninety points with East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania not far behind in third with seventy-six points. Seton Hill University concluded the day with sixty-six points with Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania finishing in fifth with fifty points.

Papa, who is in his 35th year of coaching at Slippery Rock, will step down from his position in the summer of 2022. Under his tenure, twenty-five PSAC team championships have been won along with a number of personal accolades to his name, which include being named PSAC coach of the year twenty-one times and regional coach of the year sixteen times.

However, Papa was keen to make sure there was no room for any emotion on a personal note in what was his final indoor championships.

“It’s an emotional event for all of us,” Papa remarked. ‘It’s the culminating activity to all the hard work done over the fall [2021].”

“Myself, the other coaches and athletes put a lot of heart and effort into our sport,” Papa continued. “When it comes to getting evaluated at a championship, we put it all out there.”

“Our intent was to finish in the top three and we met that goal.”

Following the closing of the indoor season, both the men’s and women’s programs commence their outdoor season at the Myrtle Beach Collegiate Challenge in South Carolina on March 11.

The Rock will be one of thirty-nine teams to participate in the Palmetto State as they look to build on their impressive indoor season.

Papa believes the competition will be an important one for the teams moving forward. “It’s a great team bonding event,”. “It’s good to get outside with some of the events we don’t have indoors such as the discus and the javelin.”

The Rock will compete in a number of different events, but Papa believes there is strength in depth throughout the ranks. “We scored everywhere [in relation to indoor],” Papa commented. “That’s a big strength of ours, we’re not just a one event type team.”

Junior women’s distance runner Marianne Abdalah has recorded a formidable start to her season, finishing second and third in the indoor championships’ five- thousand and three-thousand-meter races respectively. Papa believes she can carry on that form outside.

“She’ll be our top distance lady,” Papa said.

Dalton Anderson, a graduate transfer from Westminster College and one of ten seniors on the men’s track team, will be looking to score highly in multiple events following on from the indoor championships.

Anderson, who was unable to clear a height in the pole vault in the sixth event at the indoor championships, was able to rise up the leaderboard after winning the final event of the day, securing sixth place. He will now take on the challenge of carrying his momentum into the outdoor season, which will be no easy feat.

Having announced his retirement, Papa cuts a relaxed figure when quizzed on what the future holds for him. “I’ll take the summer and just relax,” Papa said. “I’ve been going at it all year long for decades now.”

“Maybe it’s time to see what else is going on, but I’ve got no definite plans.”

Both the men’s and women’s Slippery Rock’s outdoor track teams will compete on home turf for the first time outdoors this season at the Dave Labor Invitational on April 2 at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.

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