Track & field overcomes stormy weather to reach success

Senior Lucy Balcezak races to the finish line in Ramapo Roadrunner Classic. Hoping for better weather on April 7, VC track and field will compete in the Sam Howell Invitational. / Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

On Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1, the Vassar track and field teams competed in Mahwah, NJ, for the Eighth Annual Ramapo Roadrunner Classic. Despite less than ideal weather conditions, both the men and women persevered to have strong performances at the two-day meet.

The Brewers were met with cold wind and rain upon arrival on the first day of the meet. While the harsh conditions led the women to cancel their throwing events, they did compete in the 5000-meter run and the 4×800 relay. The women’s best performance in the 5000-meter came from junior Katie Voegtlin who finished the race at 19:07.26. This time earned her third place and was also a personal best record in the event. Behind Voegtlin, senior Laura MacDonald finished in sixth with a time of 19:21.17, while sophomore Cameron Daddis finished in 12th place with a time of 20:28.72.

The 4×800 relay brought more victory for the Brewers as seniors Alex Gittens and Lucy Balcezak, junior Savannah Wiman and freshman Erin Clark finished at 9:46.55. Not only was this a record-breaking time in the Northeast this season, it was also 13 seconds faster than the standard time needed to qualify for the ECAC Championships.

“It felt great to be able to win the 4×800 and get that ECAC mark so early, and in a 35 degree downpour! I am looking forward to seeing this team do great things over the next few months,” said Balcezak.

On Saturday, the women had a much fuller day of competition, allowing many of the athletes to achieve personal or collegiate bests. Sophomore Kate Lawson and junior Beatrice Land both had personal bests in the 1500-meter run, with times of 5:21.08 and 5:56.71, respectively. Meanwhile, sophomore Sophie Sharp attained a collegiate best in the 100-meter hurdles prelims at 19.60. Freshman Zahra Crim also achieved a collegiate best, finishing the 800-meter run with a time of 2:46.81.

While the team placed relatively high in numerous events, some of the strongest performances came in the 400-meters, where senior Alex Gittens earned second place with a time of 1:00.91, and the 4×100 meter relay, in which senior Saparja Nag, sophomores Annelise Depman and Sophie Sharp and freshman Max Wagh finished sixth with a time of 53.64. Vassar also fared well in several jumping events. Freshman Penelope Mort Ranta tied a school record in the high jump as she reached 1.48 meters of 4’10.25”, while Depman made it to the finals for triple jump, ultimately placing fifth overall.

As for the men, they also braced the rough weather to reach success in the 5000-meter run and the 4×800 relay on the first day of the meet. Like the women, the men took the victory in the relay, winning by approximately five seconds. Senior Gabe Fishman, juniors Philip Brown and Jared Freedman and sophomore Ry Blume finished the event at 8:20.83.

The next day, the men had several notable performances, particularly by freshman Skylar Widman and junior Kyle Estrada.

“Stand out performances came from Skylar Widman who was able to make a solid improvement from his previous college best in the 100 meter dash and qualify for the finals of the 100 meters later in the meet,” noted Estrada.

Widman went on to finish seventh in the finals, running slightly faster than he did in the preliminary round, with a time of 11.45. While Estrada just missed the cutoff to qualify for the finals in the 100-meter dash, he had a strong showing in the 200-meters later that afternoon, posting a time of 22.84, a personal best.

“I felt that individually I had a decent day,” said Estrada. “I was able to run a personal best in the 200m dash in poor conditions which was a big confidence boost as I was able to run faster than I did in Arizona where it was 90 and sunny.”

Saturday’s competition featured strong performances by other freshmen in addition to Widman. Cole Derksen finished the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:02.97, earning 17th place in his first race for the Brewers. Adin Becker also had a successful day, achieving a collegiate best in the 1500-meters, in which he finished ninth with a time of 4:15.88.

Sophomore Ryan Blume also ran a collegiate best time, finishing the 400-meters with a time of 53.83. Junior Jared Freedman and sophomore Dan Melody were only a few seconds behind Blume with times of 56.59 and 56.80.

Junior Michael Walsh put the Brewers on the board in jumping events, reaching 4.91 meters in the long jump and getting fifth place in the triple jump with a jump of 11.51 meters.

Overall, Head Coach Justin Harris was pleased with the both teams’ abilities to work hard while facing adverse weather conditions, which was the coaching staff’s main objective for the meet.

“We think the main take away is the notion that we can have a great meet while not necessarily running fast or jumping far,” explained Coach Harris. “Being successful is about matching your effort to what the environment dishes out–weather, competitors our own thoughts–regardless though, we have to compete.”

Estrada, like Coach Harris, is proud of the men’s efforts and excited to see what future meets bring. “Moving forward we are looking to see continued improvements across the board for everybody. We have high hopes for our relays going into Liberty Leagues. We also have our eyes on a few of the individual event titles,” Estrada shared.

The women’s side shares similar optimism about the future, and Balcezak is confident that having had to face the harsh elements will only allow the women to be stronger as the season continues. “As we move on to bigger meets, and as the weather hopefully improves, the toughness learned and practiced at these early meets will come in very handy,” Balcezak noted. “Learning to race and compete, and to stay strong through adverse conditions is one of the most important parts of being a runner. This meet proved we have a very tough team.”

The Brewers next head to Princeton, NJ on April 7th, to compete in the Sam Howell Invitational, and to Galloway, NJ on April 8th for the Osprey Open.

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