By Colleen Slattery
The University of Dallas men’s and women’s track and field teams have just completed an exhausting three weeks of back-to-back competition. And now? Now is the calm before the storm of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship (SCAC) meet, which will be held April 24 and 25 at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. For the next two weeks, the Crusaders will be slogging through some of the hardest practices of the year in preparation for the competition. The quickly warming weather and the rising humidity are both an indication that championship is coming soon, as the meet is traditionally very warm and these conditions present an additional challenge to the athletes who hail from Northern states.
Head Coach Matthew Barber expressed confidence in his athletes as they prepare for the competition. Barber commented that although there are quite a few standout athletes on the men’s side, the team will not be able to compete with the larger schools, such as Trinity and Texas Lutheran University (TLU), “by virtue of the size of the team.” The men’s team consists of 10 athletes, while the women’s team has 20.
Barber predicts junior Ryan McAnany, currently ranked fourth in the conference for both the 1,500-meter run (4:08) and the 5K (16:07) will dominate the field of competition. He said he also expects junior Jack Grubner (10K), sophomores Kevin Doherty (steeplechase) and Paulo Salazar (hammer throw, shotput, discus and javelin) and freshman Cameron Mitchell, who he said is “on the precipice of the top six [competitors] in triple jump,” to bolster the team. Grubner, the team captain, reasserted this.
“I’ve been really proud of how Kevin and Ryan have been racing this season,” he said. “They’ve been getting better throughout the season, and we’re primed to run well at conference. Paulo has been hitting PRs [personal records] in the throwing events and should also pick up some points for us in conference.”
Barber said that the women’s team has had “ups and downs with everyone for the most part.” He said that, despite this, the women “can do more as a team than the guys can.” Barber predicted a “solid chance for us to come in third [place]” behind the powerhouses of TLU and Trinity, who took first and second in the conference last year respectively.
Barber’s top picks for success on the women’s side were a mélange of athletes, from sophomores to seniors. Sophomore Lizzie Depew is currently ranked second in the 100-meter hurdles (16.19) as well as 10th in the 400-meter hurdles (1:13). The school record-holding women’s 4×400 meter relay team is also returning all four of its members (seniors Colleen Slattery, Amy Sullivan and Danielle Pajak and sophomore Katie McIntyre), and they are currently ranked fourth in the conference.
Junior Ruth Fritz has had a blazing first season running for the team. She is looking to score in both the 10K and 1500-meter run. Fritz holds fourth place in the conference for the 10K (41:19), and she expressed optimism going into the final meet.
“It’s been tough, but I’m enjoying the hard work and results I’ve been getting,” Fritz said.
This is Barber’s first track season, and he said he has been happy about it so far.
“We have seen a lot of success although we are, you know, smaller than a lot of the teams,” he said. The conference meet is sure to be a challenge for the Crusaders, but if the athletes continue on their trajectories, there may be some interesting results to report at the end of this month.