By Thomas Albano
The track and field teams competed at home for the only time this season at the Rider Invite on April 11, which saw the men come in first of 23 schools, while the women finished fourth of 22.
“I was very pleased with the performances of both teams,” said head coach Bob Hamer. “We got contributions from all event groups, and that is how we have built the team.”
Rider’s top performer at the meet was senior thrower Andrew Pozo, whose first-place finish in the hammer throw with a distance of 55.31 meters set a new school record. The throw broke the old record, set in 2010, by approximately 1.5 meters.
For Pozo, it was the ideal setting for the accomplishment.
“It was relieving to finally break the record, but to do it in front of all the people who came out to support and cheer me on was perfect,” Pozo said.
The men’s team had numerous other winners at the event, including a few athletes who had IC4A qualifying performances. Qualifiers included senior thrower George Solujich, who qualified by winning the shot put with a 16.81-meter throw; senior pole vaulter Anthony DeFranco, who won with a height of 4.85 meters — a personal best; sophomore hurdler Devon Jefferson, who won the 110-meter hurdles in 14.8 seconds; and freshman jumper Shabazz Shuler, who won the long jump with a distance of 7.19 meters.
DeFranco’s qualification helps to give his collegiate career just a little more life.
“Being able to qualify for IC4As extends my season and track career two more weeks,” DeFranco said. “So that is definitely relieving.”
Other winners for the men included junior hurdler Darien Edwards, who won the 400-meter hurdles in 54.58 seconds; junior Jon Knipper, who won the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 10:04.59; and sophomore jumper Kyle Bryant, who won the triple jump with a distance of 14.15 meters.
The women’s team had three athletes who won competitions at the home meet. Junior jumper Daria Chadwick won the high jump with a height of 1.65 meters, while Olivia Rosenberger won the triple jump with a distance of 11.65 meters. Freshman sprinter Cleopatra Morrison won the 100-meter dash in 12.39 seconds.
While her team was not victorious in the standings, Rosenberger said the women were high in spirit during and following the event.
“The morale at this meet was very high,” Rosenberger said. “In track and field, as I’m sure it is in any other sport, the power of having people cheer you on can really rear up an individual’s performance; it makes you want to do well and prove to the other teams that you’re a great competitor. The girls’ team did a great job cheering each other on and supporting everyone.”
Kutztown won the women’s portion of the event, with Sacred Heart and NYU also finishing ahead of Rider.
The track and field teams will now be split among events to be held over the next two weekends — the final two before the MAAC Championships.
Upcoming events for the team this coming weekend include the Larry Ellis Invitational, which will be held on April 17 and 18 at Princeton; the Greyhound Invitational, which takes place in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on April 18; and the Phoenix Invitational in Elon, North Carolina, on April 18.
Hamer says splitting the teams up helps the athletes prepare and perfect their showings.
“It is real important leading up to the MAAC Championships that everyone gets an opportunity to compete in the right environment,” Hamer said. “We feel we give our athletes the best chance to be their best by competing with this schedule over the final few weeks of the season.”