By Dylan Manfre
Slotted at No. 2 in the preseason coaches’ poll, the men’s and women’s track and field teams competed in the highly anticipated MAAC Championship meet. The two-day event took place at the 168th Street Armory in New York City on Feb. 16 and Feb. 17.
Both teams finished in second place at the meet’s conclusion with the men’s team tallying 116.5 points and the women’s team racking up 133. Monmouth, which entered the meet as the overwhelming favorite, took home both titles.
Head Coach Bob Hamer mentioned prior to the championship meet that Rider fine-tuned a lot of the tactical elements of its training since its dual meet against TCNJ.
“We’ve taken the last two weeks to put in the final pieces of preparation both physically and mentally,” Hamer said. “I think it gives us a chance to take a step back and reassess who we are, gather ourselves and work on the technical things in our events.”
Hamer made it clear that it would take a full-team effort in order to contend with schools like Monmouth. Since 2014, the Hawks men’s team won four indoor MAAC championships. The women’s team won six consecutive titles.
“In track and field, in order to be successful in every event, especially at Rider, we need a contribution from every event,” Hamer said. “Every event is important; every person is important and anywhere we can scratch and claw and grab a point here or there is important.”
After one day of action, the men’s team had a strong hold on second place while the women’s team held a 5.5 point lead over Monmouth. Multiple athletes advanced to the finals on day two and set personal records.
Senior thrower Matt Kraemer was the MAAC Champion in the weight throw and threw 17.59 meters and scored Rider 10 points. Standout freshman jumper Ayomide Oyewole soared 7.37 meters, scoring eight points for the Broncs in a second-place performance.
Oyewole’s performances earned him the MAAC Field Rookie Performer of the Meet.
On the women’s side, graduate student sprinter and jumper Sara Gardner had an outstanding meet both on and off the track. Gardner won the high jump at 1.65 meters, qualified for the finals in the 60 meter dash in fifth place and was first in the 60 meter hurdles.
Day two produced more solid marks for the Broncs.
In the 60 meter hurdle finals, Gardner broke her own Rider record of 8.51 seconds which she set in 2017, by running an Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) qualifying time of 8.41 for a first-place finish.
The men’s 4×400 meter relay quartet of freshman James Green, senior Russell Malko, freshman Noah Rivera and senior Dalin Hackley ran a winning time of 3:17.01.
“Throughout the season, our relay was constantly changing,” said Green. “Every guy who earned that gold medal, earned his way onto the relay. I believe we did everything perfectly and it just came down to heart, and who wanted it more, which definitely showed.”
Malko entered the meet as the defending MAAC champion in the 400 meter dash. On day two, he came in second place to Monmouth’s Nadale Buntin. The two were separated by 0.13 seconds.
A new program record was set by the women’s 4×800 meter relay team made up of junior Kristin Siegle, sophomore Andrea Benites, sophomore Paris Boucher and junior Katie Ward.
They placed fourth in the meet with a time of 9:13.66 which was a 1.44 second difference from the previous record of 9:15.50 set in 2011.
Rider’s next big meet is the ECAC/IC4A Indoor Championship meet held on March 1-3 in Boston.