By Collen Slattery
Before you jump to the conclusion (from the above title) that the University of Dallas men’s and women’s track and field teams are insanely overprivileged and wasting school money on extravagant trips, let me assure you the team worked hard this weekend as they competed in the Disney Track and Field Open at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Disney World. There was also a personal reason for attending the meet in Florida. In honor of senior Clare Myers and her commitment to the track team, the team traveled to her home state so that her family could come watch her compete before she graduates from UD.
The field of competition was a dramatic change for the Crusaders, who are accustomed to competing mainly with other Division III schools. In a field of 14 teams from all across the country were Princeton University and the University of Cincinnati, two dominant Division I teams. The Crusaders, although a little overawed by their competitors, were able to hold their own. The women’s team narrowly missed taking third place in the tournament, missing out on the trophy by a mere 10 points to Marywood University, while the men’s team took fifth overall.
The weather in Florida was sunny and uncomfortably warm for the Crusaders, unused to competing in 85 plus-degree weather with matching humidity levels so early on in the season. Sophomore hurdler Elizabeth Depew commented on the stifling conditions.
“It was kinda rough because of the heat,” Depew said.
She cited heat as one of the main reasons for a less than stellar performance, and said she wanted to focus on not letting such things affect her performance in the future. Despite this, Depew still managed to make it into the finals for the 100-meter high hurdles, taking considerable time off of her first attempt at the race in the prelims and finishing in eighth place.
The competition officially began early Friday morning with the women’s and men’s 10,000-meter race. The grueling 25-lap race was shrouded in early morning fog before a fierce sun burned through and temperatures skyrocketed. Juniors Ruth Fritz and Jack Grubner competed in their inaugural 10Ks, and each of them looked strong throughout their respective races. Fritz completed the race in an impressive time of 41:19, and Grubner strode to a resilient time of 36:19, finishing in second place overall.
The day lengthened, the heat rose and the sun burned brighter and brighter. As each athlete competed in several events, the Crusaders felt the conditions very strongly. Despite the heat, there were quite a few standout events. Head Coach Matthew Barber noted that sophomore Paulo Salazar had an especially good weekend of performances. Salazar had a near PR (personal record) in the shot put, and became increasingly comfortable with every throw he took in the hammer throw competition, which was impressive considering that it was his first time competing in the event. Salazar also just missed scoring in a particularly difficult field of discus throwers.
Saturday proved to be more merciful than Friday in terms of heat, but the sunburns on many of the Crusaders blazed a hot and angry red. The team mentality was very much that of survival: push hard, hang on to the end of the race and look forward to some shade and rest afterwards. The 1,500-meter run was a high point of the day for the Crusaders, with Fritz taking first place for the women with a time of 5:26, and junior phenom Ryan McAnany taking second for the men with a time of 4:19. Earlier that day, McAnany had also dominated the 5,000-meter run, winning it in an exciting battle of will and determination. In the final 600 meters of the race, McAnany slowly edged out his competition and finally kicked in at the end to finish in a college-best time of 16:07.
Coach Matthew Barber said he was impressed with his athletes and their performance over the weekend. The main difficulty of the meet was the weather.
“The weather did not go well. We went from snow to 90 degrees and more humidity than Houston, Texas. But, the four-by-mile [relay] was really cool because we got to beat Texas Lutheran University in Florida. We beat them [in] team score overall, too.” He said he was also pleasantly surprised by the women’s fourth place finish, as well as the men’s fifth place finish.
“I was pumped,” Barber said.
The team will compete at a meet closer to home next week at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla.