Track sprints into outdoor season: Team prepares to build off past success

Katherine Weeks

Just three weeks after competing at the indoor Patriot League Championships, the Lafayette Track and Field team will begin their outdoor season – the final season of the 2015-16 school year.

Unlike other Division I sports, when one season ends in track and field, the next starts within days, providing little time for recovery. Still, members of the team are optimistic as their first meet quickly approaches.

“This year we’ve had a lot more depth with people qualifying for Patriot Leagues,” said sophomore Alexa Kwapinski, who led the Leopards at last week’s ECAC/IC4A Championships in the 800. “We have a lot of young talent – a lot of new distance runners and a few new sprinters who are stepping up.”

With the cross country and indoor seasons complete, head coach Michele Curcio is excited to see what the outdoor season will bring, especially considering their success last year.

“Every year it’s a different type of team and it’s a different dynamic to every group,” Curcio said. “I’m looking forward to all of that and to see what will happen.”

At the 2015 Outdoor Patriot League Championships, the women’s 4×400 relay brought home a victory, while simultaneously breaking a school record. Other successful performances included senior Devin Smith placing second in the 400 and freshman Dave McGriff finishing third in the discus event. The women also beat Lehigh in the annual Laf-Lehigh matchup.

According to senior sprinter and jumper Jarrel Bobb, the Patriot League Championship is the most important meet of the year, but the Laf-Lehigh meet, the oldest men’s track rivalry meet in the country, is a close second. Kwapinski said the team looks to get “Mundy,” the trophy, back after losing it to Lehigh this past indoor season.

“Laf-Lehigh is definitely a time when it’s all about team; it’s all about points,” co-captain Bobb said. “It’s not about running your fastest, it’s just about running faster than Lehigh. It’s a lot more strategic than a lot of our other meets, because we have to have the right guys in the right races at the right time, so this year we’re stacked up to do pretty well if we can all get healthy.”

Both the men’s and women’s team has been plagued by injuries for the past year. Junior Steph Benko, who won the Patriot League championship in the steeplechase her sophomore year, looked like her old self at the end of this past indoor season according to Curcio.

Bobb has also been fighting off multiple injuries, but is hopeful as his final season at Lafayette approaches.

“I’m not worried about the beginning of the season, I’m taking my time making sure I can have a long season,” Bobb said. “Track and field is all about championships. You know each meet is important, but getting to the championship season and into regional meets are what are important to us.”

In addition to their opening home meet on March 25 and March 26, the Leopards will compete in different key invitationals this spring to qualify for Patriot League play, such as the Larry Ellis Invitational at Princeton. Although each team is allowed 35 members from both the men’s and women’s side, Lafayette track and field has their own personal qualifying standards.

According to Curcio and Kwapinski, the team’s goal for the season is to fill all 70 of those spots.

With the first meets of the season just a few days away, Bobb, Curcio and Kwapinski are all equally excited to see what the season has in store.

“I think I’m looking forward to seeing how many people get to Patriot Leagues and just for everyone to compete at their best,” Kwapinski added. “It’s always exciting when a lot of people leave meets with PRs.”