It’s that time of year again. Students are rushing to purchase their textbooks, professors are preparing for the upcoming semester and West Chester University coaches are prepping their teams for the spring season. However, track and field coach Aaron Keiser is getting his team ready to work hard in order to exceed his expectations and show their true potential this winter. Since the New Year, Coach Keiser has led the men and women’s track and field team to three events: the Ursinus Collegeville Classic, the Orange & Maroon Classic and the Kutztown Invitational.
The Kutztown Invitational qualified nine males for various events from the West Chester track and field team, as well as four females for the PSACs in February. The Rams that qualified are Leighon Johnson, Shawn Smith, Tim Thiry, Tyler Real, Eric Akins, Kyle Miller and Josh Bacon. Among the male qualifiers, Tyler Real showed that dedication and hard work pays off by receiving a top-five time in the 55-meter hurdles at the invitational. The talented Lady Rams who qualified at the Kutztown Invitational are Mary Gawbill, Kamber Schrann, Miriam Hughes and Brittany Foye.
At the 2010 Ursinus Collegeville Classic on Friday, Johnson won three events as he led the men’s track team to a victory in the meet. West Chester scored 135 points, defeating Ursinus (85) and Gwynedd-Mercy (84).
Johnson set the 10th all-time mark at WCU with a time of 22.86 seconds in the 200m. He also won the 55m dash (6.7 seconds) and the long jump with a leap of 22 feet, 3 inches, which ranks seventh all-time at WCU.
Junior Craig Espenshade qualified for PSACs in two separate events. He finished second in the 400m and third in the 200m. Smith finished second in the 55m behind Johnson. Matt Langdale finshed third in the 800m and second in the 3000m to qualify for PSACs. His time of 8:51.71 in the 3000m ranks eighth at WCU.
The Lady Rams also won the 2010 Ursinus Collegeville Classic by scoring 107.5 points, defeating Coppin State (106) and Misericordia (70).
Registering three third-place finishes for WCU was Sam Smarkola, who qualified for PSACs in the 200m and 400m.
Melinda Wentz finished fifth in the 400m to also qualify for PSACs with a time of 1:01.59.
Finishing in first place was Ratasiewicz in the 3000m and Katie Butler in the high jump. Liz Jackson finished second in the shot put.
It is obvious that the members of the West Chester track and field team have talent. The ability of these athletes is not only visible to spectators and fellow teammates but, more importantly, their coach. The talent of this team inspired Coach Keiser’s high expectations for a successful year.
“We are still a very young team this year. With the talent that is currently on the team, I expect that we will surprise the PSAC this year. We have a great squad of returning PSAC point scorers in captains Matt Houser, Espenshade, Johnson, Langdale (men), and captains Wentz and Shannon Murphy, along with Butler, CJ Jacob, Ratasiewicz and Foye (women), that provide great leadership for this young team. Further, I believe that a healthy portion of newcomers will make a substantial contribution to our PSAC Championship point total this year.”
The athletes not only achieve success through skill alone, but also by their ability to work together and support each other.
“We focus on being a family, watching and giving each other tips that are helpful and will benefit us at a meet or upcoming events,” Houser said.
Their positive attitudes on the track contribute to their successes as well.
“I’m very happy the season has begun,” Murphy said. “I love to compete. There is something about stepping to the line and knowing that when the race is over I will have given everything I had to finish. I’m a senior so I’ve been here awhile but I would venture to say that the team this year is one of the strongest that WCU has ever seen. As long as we stay healthy, the sky is the limit.”
As the season progresses, the Rams will continue to show their ability to shine. Every member of the team has the same goal, “for everyone to qualify for the PSACs,” according to Houser.
On the other hand, Coach Keiser states his goals for the season, “I am hoping that with the talent on our roster this year, that we will improve showing within the indoor and outdoor championship meets. I’ve seen an increase in our athleticism throughout the preseason and with continued hard work I believe that we will be capable of bumping up a few spots in the conference standings.”
By continuing their hard work and perseverance, the Rams will continue to shine throughout the season and exceed even their own expectations.
Both teams return to action this weekend at the Bucknell Heptagonal. The PSAC Championships take place at the end of Februaury.
Jillian Morgan is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. She can be reached at JM652349@wcupa.edu.