By Colleen Slattery
All good things must come to an end. And the University of Dallas track and field teams have certainly had a good run this season. There were numerous ups and downs, as in any sport, but at the end of the day, the Crusaders stood united — tired, injured and sunburned, but united. The track and field team has a distinct quality to it: joyfulness. Throughout all of the practices, there are smiles, even on the hardest days. There is a lightness in the attitude of these athletes. This lightness does not translate into laziness, though. Their incredible dedication and hard work is most evident when they step onto the track. At the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Track & Field Championships this past weekend in San Antonio, Texas, the Crusaders proved that they are a team capable of keeping up with the best.
The UD track and field team is small when compared to the rest of the teams in the SCAC. For this reason, the final scores of the meet had the Crusaders at the bottom of each list, fifth of five teams, behind Southwestern University, Colorado College, Texas Lutheran University and the host school, Trinity University. The powerhouses of the conference, TLU and Trinity, had large squads of runners, and the sheer amount of athletes they placed in each event made scoring a difficulty for the runners from UD. Nonetheless, there were many standout performances this past weekend. And that is the beauty of individual team sports like track and field. Even when the score at the end of the day does not reflect success for a team, there are numerous personal successes and triumphs to applaud.
Junior Ruth Fritz had one such standout performance this past weekend in the 1,500-meter run. Despite having run the most grueling race on the track the day before (the 10,000-meter run), Fritz managed to take sixth place overall in the event in a personal record-breaking time of 5 minutes, 11 seconds. Watching Fritz was quite the adventure, as she came out slowly and hung on to the tail end of the pack. It seemed the race the day before had bested her. On the second lap of the three-and-three-fourths-lap race, though, she picked up the pace, miraculously jumping to the front of the pack. From there, she dropped to the middle, chased the tail end of the lead pack and dug in for a magnificent finish.
On the men’s side, it was junior Ryan McAnany who stole the show. Saturday loomed, and McAnany had a full day ahead of him: the 4-by-100-meter relay, the 1,500-meter run, the 5,000-meter run and finally, the 4-by-400-meter relay. You never would have known the challenge he was about to take on, as he smiled lazily on his warm-up run before the races started. But on the interior, he knew he had his work cut out for him.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge because last year I actually had to do the same four events, but this year was even more difficult considering [the fact that] the competition got so much stronger,” he said. “I just tried to focus on one event at a time.”
The 1,500 was McAnany’s standout race of the day, although he powered through all of them wonderfully. McAnany took third in the race with a time of 4:08, racing across the finish line with his usual graceful stride. McAnany was not completely satisfied with his performance, though.
“Although I’m proud of myself for getting third, I really wanted to bring home first place for the team,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve been working towards all year.”
This past weekend also marked the senior track runners’ last meet ever. Luckily for the men’s squad, the team will only lose women next year: Clare Myers, Danielle Pajak, Sarah Valdovinos, Colleen Slattery, Michelle DeRoche and Amy Sullivan.
“I’m going to miss this team,” DeRoche said as she reminisced on her career at UD. “There’s nothing like early departures for track meets, rainy weather or not even having your own track to bring a team together. I’m very proud of everyone — the throwers, sprinters and distance. Everyone gave their all this season, and I’m excited to stay up-to-date on everyone’s progress next year. It’ll be strange not returning to another track meet as a collegiate athlete. It’s been a part of me for so long. I remember when there were five girls on the team my freshman year, and the current Coach Barber ran on the team as a student-athlete. It’s been great to see the team grow to the size it is now.”
“I’ve had an incredible past four years with this program,” said Myers, who currently holds school track records in the two-mile and the 10K. “I’m honored to call all these amazing people my teammates. I’m so impressed with what we’ve accomplished as a team since freshman year, and I’m excited to see where Coach Barber takes this program. He’s done such a great job this year, and I know he’s just going to keep getting better.”
And so ends another joyous season of running on the track under the Texan sun for the Crusaders.