The women’s indoor track team has hit the point in its season where almost every athlete has one final shot to prove they belong on the national stage.
Having won their fourth straight Empire 8 Conference Championship and third consecutive New York State Collegiate Track Conference title, the Blue and Gold are preparing for their final two competitions — the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships tomorrow and Saturday and the NCAAs on March 11 and 12.
Junior Emma Dewart, who leads the team with provisional marks in the 55-meter hurdles, high jump, long jump and an automatic mark in the pentathlon, said posting a qualifying mark early in the season can change the tone for the rest of the year.
“I enjoy myself and the events I do throughout the rest of the season leading up to nationals,” Dewart said. “Without the added stress of having to qualify, you have more room to do events you may not do in a normal meet when you are looking to qualify, which is always exciting.”
In track and field, an athlete can either hit an automatic or provisional standard for nationals. If an athlete earns an automatic mark, she is guaranteed a spot at the national championships. But, if an athlete only hits the provisional standard, that athlete is on the bubble and may not get into the meet.
Seniors Marcia McCord, Kristen DeStefano, Kate Leugers and Dewart have already hit the provisional or automatic standards for the NCAAs in their respective events.
Because McCord has notched only provisional marks in the triple jump, 55-meter dash and 400-meter dash, her entrance to the NCAAs is not guaranteed.
“You’re still a bit on edge until you know that your mark is good enough,” McCord said.
Leugers and DeStefano are also in similar positions, having both met provisional qualifying standards Saturday at the NYSCTC Championships. Leugers is 13th in the mile, while DeStefano, who won the state championship, is 16th in the pole vault in Division III.
“It’s great to be on the list even if it’s just provo,” DeStefano said. “My entire collegiate track goal has been to go to nationals. It does add some pressure because it’s not certain I will go or not.”
Leugers, who ran a 5:00.11 mile last weekend, said it is especially important to focus and improve upon her qualifying mark at ECACs.
“This year the list for NCAAs is fairly deep in the mile with a lot of girls ranging from 4:50-4:58ish,” Leugers said. “So I will definitely have to hit something like that this weekend if I want a shot at going.”
Only the automatic qualifiers, plus however many athletes are needed to complete the event field, are selected to participate based on their national rank. The number of additional athletes who qualify varies from event to event, but the top 12 to 20 athletes usually make the cut with more qualifying for the shorter events and fewer for the distance events.
To prepare for ECACs, which will be held tomorrow at The Armory in New York City, the Bombers changed their work load and focused on the details this past week. Whether that was fine-tuning form, easing off mileage or listening to their bodies and resting, the Bombers are looking to be in top shape tomorrow.
“We’re definitely in taper mode,” McCord said. “Maintaining the momentum from the season and staying healthy is the name of the game.”
Dewart said she is focusing on the mental aspects of her events in preparation for the next two meets.
“Preparing myself mentally has always been a challenge for me,” she said. “But I have been working on getting myself better prepared in that area since the beginning of the season.”
Leugers said it’s difficult for her to even consider taking a day off as she sets her sights on NCAAs.
“I’m always in the mind-set that I’m not doing enough to get better,” Leugers said. “That that one more rep, those few more miles will make the difference. But really, recovery is just as much a part of the equation as anything. Being as stubborn as I am, I have yet to really take that to heart.”