The month of May has finally defeated what seemed to be the eternal 2018 winter season, just in time for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) track and field championships, hosted by Slippery Rock.
“The weather is supposed to be extra nice,” Slippery Rock head track and field coach John Papa said with a smile on his face.
This is The Rock’s first time hosting the championships in seven years, and that excitement hasn’t gone unnoticed with the SRU women’s track and field team.
“We’ve had a countdown for this home meet since the fall, since we got back here in August,” Papa said. “Then after Monday, we didn’t even have to tell them how many days were left, they were ready. The excitement level is high.”
One of Slippery Rock’s areas of domination this year has been the pole vault. Junior Courtney McQuaide will defend her pole vault championship from last year, and try to follow up on a stellar indoor track season, where she placed fifth at the NCAA DII national championships. McQuaide’s biggest competition may come in teammate sophomore Maddy Marshal, who holds the SRU indoor pole vault record (4.01 meters).
“[McQuaide and Marshal] consistently do extremely well competing at the pole vault [but] I know there are some other vaulters in our conference that are coming here to win,” Papa said. “They’re not just going to show up and win, they are ready to compete and beat some other national competitors.”
Three SRU freshman runners are expected to do well at the championships after having stellar outdoor debuts. Vanessa Shedlock, in addition to winning the triple jump at two events during the indoor season, recently won the 400-meter dash at the PSU Behrend open on April 21st.
“Vanessa Shedlock is one of the conference leaders in the 400 meters, she’s tearing it up,” Papa said.
Fellow freshman Reagan Hess also holds an SRU record for the 60-meter dash (7.67 seconds). Hess has also won the long jump in the past two meets that she was in the event. Amanda Oliver is the last outstanding freshman for The Rock so far this year, who qualified for the PSAC championships in three different events.
“Reagan Hess, our sprinter and long jumper have been doing some really good things,” Papa said. “Amanda Oliver is a sprinter as well that we hope is going to do extremely well.”
Oliver and Hess are part of a 4×100 meter relay team (also including sophomore Emily Horstman and junior Megan Stephenson) that has had an outstanding spring, and come into the championships ranked third in the event.
“Nate Shaddock, our sprint coach, does a great job getting the athletes ready, keeping them moving all year and getting them in shape,” Papa said. “We have some depth too, so we have other athletes to fill in and be competitive if somebody wasn’t able to compete.”
The other two relay teams, the 4×400 and 4×800, also come into the event ranked high, second and third respectively. The 4×400 team is made up of Horstman, Shedlock, senior Aerial Dukes and junior Madison Przicina. The 4×800 team will be helmed by Przicina, sophomore Kacey Raible, sophomore Bri Witherel and anchored by senior Caitlyn Janeda
Papa said that the team will go into the event not being expected to win by others, but expecting themselves to win.
“We’ve all got to compete extremely well, there are four teams that can win this thing,” Papa said. “We’re not favored, but we’re gonna give it everything we have. It’s going to be a dogfight.”