The Slippery Rock Outdoor Track & Field season is officially underway as the team competed in the Myrtle Beach Collegiate Challenge and Shamrock Invitational in South Carolina over spring break.
The men’s squad took first place at the Myrtle Beach Collegiate Challenge with five event wins and 28 top-10 finishes. Their scores were good enough for 126.5 points. They finished above several Division I programs.
“We were just going into the meet to get our kids some great experience and to get our kids some competition. It was a great experience,” head coach Bill Jordan said. “They really showed that they’re capable of competing on any level.”
Sophomore AJ Virata was The Rock’s most valuable athlete, finishing first in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.94 and second in the 100-meter dash at 11.07. Virata accrued 18 points during his events, good for the highest score of any male athlete in the challenge. He also teamed up with Kadin Johnson, Jeremy Uher and Matthew Crow to finish third in the 4×400 relay at 3:25.49.
“AJ is definitely one of our key individuals on the team. He’s able to score a bunch of points in the sprints and the high jump as well as working on our relays,” Jordan said. “The kid is very versatile for us.”
Crow joined Virata as a Slippery Rock athlete to take first in an event, as he set the pace at the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 55.63.
The Rock’s other first-place finishes were Dan Hyatt with a 4.45-meter pole vault, Joshua Gose with a 15.60-meter shot put and Dalton Anderson with a 59.71-meter javelin throw.
Anderson’s throw was good for an NCAA provisional mark, SRU’s only instance at the competition, which puts him in consideration for a place at the national NCAA meet.
“He helps us out in both a leadership role and a performance role. He’s not even cracked his potential yet, he’s just getting rolling,” Jordan said.
The relay teams were successful, gaining points in all three events by taking third place in the 4×400-meter relay finishing at 3:25.49, fourth place in the 4×800-meter relay at 8:13.26 and seventh place in the 4×200-meter relay at 1:38.91.
Virata was joined by Kadin Johnson, Jeremy Uher and Matthew Crow in the 4×400. The 4×800 team consisted of Ryan Corbitt, Troy Hart, Michael Novak and Devon Navaroli and the 4×200 event was run by Jared Martone, Ian James, Mason Reed and Ethan Folmer.
The Slippery Rock men had 24 athletes finish with a top 10 result across all individual events. Additionally, they had 15 athletes achieve Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) qualifying marks.
“There are people in all aspects of our team that are contributing, all the different event groups,” Jordan said. “I pride ourselves on having a great all-around track team that’s able to score points in every one of the domains and that’s why we’re being successful.”
The women’s team also fared well with a third-place finish. They were the highest-scoring non-division I squad and accrued 102 points.
Senior Tiffany Jolayemi took home The Rock’s lone event win as she took first with a 42.97-meter hammer throw.
SRU women had three second-place finishes: Rachel Veneziano had a 1:06.11 400-meter hurdle time, Anna Igims had a 4:41.71 1,500-meter run and Kendall Grossman had a 3.50-meter pole vault. Chaley Younkin and Olivia Heckman were the other top three finishers in 100-meter hurdles and shot put respectively.
Jolayemi, Grossman, Veneziano, Igims, Heckmen and Younkin were joined by Hanna Zeiler, Grace Parrett, Alice Bogia and Aleks Brozeski in achieving PSAC marks.
The Rock totaled 25 PSAC marks between the men’s and women’s teams at their 2023 outdoor opener.
The Slippery Rock men also enjoyed success at the Shamrock Invitational at the same location as the Myrtle Beach Collegiate Challenge. They only trailed Division I Duke University in the standings.
This time around, the team earned three NCAA provisional qualifying marks, all three from throwers. John Eakin took first in shot put with a 17.14-meter throw, Joshua Gose took second in the same event with 16.70 meters and Dalton Anderson once again achieved his NCAA mark in javelin throw with a better score than last time at 63.53 meters.
Devon Navoroli was The Rock’s highest finisher in track events as he took second in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:14.30 which was good for a PSAC mark.
Navoroli was joined by Kadin Johnson, Matthew Corw, Brenden Lewis, Kyle Adams, Cade Adams, Bryan Dworek, Seaton Wozniak, Joshua Rohland, Joshua Gose, Zach Gose, Joshua VanDeMark and Brandon McCray in achieving PSAC marks.
The 4×100-meter relay team earned fourth place with a time of 42.29. The team consisted of Johnson, Crow, Dworek and Cam Lindsey.
The Rock men had 20 athletes with a top-ten finish between all events.
The women’s team took fourth place, which was also the highest ranking of a non-Division I program.
Jordan Klick achieved a first-place finish in the 800-meter run which she completed in 2:41.71. This was the highest placement for any Slippery Rock women’s athlete at the meet.
Katie Plassio and Sarah Corrie both earned second place in the 10,000-meter run and shot put respectively. Both athletes were awarded PSAC auto marks for their performances. Anna Igims, Marianne Abdalah, Maddie Grillo, Marie Scarpa, Allie Taylor, Kendall Grossman, Olivia Heckman, Lorne Speigle and Dani MacBeth joined Klick, Plassio and Corrie in achieving top-five finishes.
The Rock women had 17 top-10 finishes across all individual events. They also had 17 total PSAC marks.
The Shamrock Invitational brought more flowers still to SRU athletes, as John Eakin and Lorna Speigle were named PSAC Male and PSAC Female Field Athletes of the Week.
“That’s not the norm for sure. You have a lot of great competition out there in the PSAC,” Jordan said. “Those individuals in particular are capable of doing great things… it was great to see that they got rewarded for their efforts.”
Slippery Rock Track and Field returns to action April 1 for their home opener, the Dave Labor Invitational. It also marks Jordan’s first home outdoor meet as head coach.
“We’re really excited to be hosting this weekend and put on a high-level meet for all the teams coming in. We’re looking at about 1,000 total athletes coming in,” Jordan said. “We’ve got our staff up here at the stadium right now, we’re making this place look as nice as we can.”
With several athletes already qualified, The Rock looks to qualify more athletes for the most important competition they will have this year at the PSAC championships.
“Our first goal for the entire team is to strive for everybody to make it to the PSAC championship meet.”