By Thomas Albano
In their first meet since winning the outdoor MAAC Championship in 2013, the Rider men finished first out of 12 schools, and the women finished third out of 11 at the VCU Invite on March 22 in Richmond, Va., the first outdoor track and field event of the 2014 season.
Head Coach Bob Hamer thought that the meet was a good beginning for what he hopes will be another successful season.
“It was a nice start, considering the teams have been on spring break and we did not practice all week,” Hamer said. “It was a great opportunity to compete with some nice weather in an environment that was not too challenging but still provided some key competition to measure our status at this point in the season.”
The success of the men’s team came largely from the performances of three juniors. Thrower George Solujich won the shot put with a toss of 52’2”, while distance runners Anthony Dentino and Dylan Hallahan won the 3000-meter steeplechase in 9:36:32, a meet record time.
Though Solujich managed to finish first, he felt he could have had a much better performance.
“My performance was a bit rough,” Solujich said. “I wanted to do better, but I know I can’t hold onto this for long. So I’ll just have to go out and practice and lift harder.”
Also for the men, sophomore hurdler Darien Edwards finished third in the 400-meter hurdles in 53.53, a time that qualifies him for the IC4A’s.
In addition, senior mid-distance runner Joseph Carlin finished third in the 800-meter run in 1:56:02. Junior Anthony DeFranco placed second in the pole vault with 15’3”. Junior distance runner Evan Cornell placed third in the 5000-meter run with a total time of 15:52.12, and freshman distance runner Brad Kaufmann finished third in the 3000-meter steeplechase in 9:59.93.
The women were highlighted by senior jumper Lauryn Strebeck, who won the triple jump with a total of 37’8”; sophomore distance runner Nicolette Mateescu, who won the 5000-meter run in 18:33.66; and graduate distance runner Megan Elgin, who won the 1500-meter run in 4:44.82.
Even though it isn’t her favorite race, Mateescu was very happy with her performance at VCU.
“The race wasn’t ideal for me, but it was still nice to win,” Mateescu said.
Another key performance came from the 4×800 meter relay team of Elgin, freshman distance runners Kayla Lubonski and Megan McGarrity, and senior mid-distance runner Gabrielle Randell. The team won the event, finishing with a time of 9:47.58.
Other notable performances from the women included senior thrower Rhea Phipps, who placed second in the hammer throw with a distance of 163’10”; sophomore Miranda Roberts, who placed second in the pole vault with a total 10’10”; sophomore jumper Dashana Ransome, who finished second in the long jump with a total of 18’1.5”; junior distance runner Josephine Boyle, who placed third in the 5000-meter run in 19:16.49; and junior distance runner Emily Ritter, who finished third in the 800-meter run in 2:18.36.
Mateescu is happy that the team is off to a strong start, in hopes of defending its 2013 MAAC Championship.
“I think it was great that we placed third at the VCU Ram Invite considering the fact that we did not run everyone in his or her best event,” she said. “This was more of a meet to get things going for the outdoor season and I think the women’s team and men’s team did just that.”
The next event will be on March 29 at the Lafayette Invitational in Easton, Pa. Hamer hopes to repeat the success from the VCU Invite there.
“This meet gave us an opportunity to measure ourselves in the early season, and gave us some things to work on as we progress through the season,” Hamer said. “Lafayette is another team scoring meet so we are interested to see how we will end up matching up against some similar competition.”