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On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

Track and field Terriers compete in America East championships

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R. J. Page, Boston University Terriers track and field, America East

R. J. Page broke the BU record in the 200-meter this year with a time of 21.34 seconds. Photos by Steve McLaughlin

With four indoor conference championships in the past six years under their belts and projected to finish first in this weekend’s America East championships, the women’s track and field Terriers may be feeling a bit of pressure.

But coach Bruce Lehane says both the women and the men are ready to place well. Competing athletes are hoping to secure a slot in next month’s NCAA tournament, on March 9 and 10.

The AE championships, being held at BU’s Track and Tennis Center (TTC) today and tomorrow, pit nine schools from New England, New York, and Maryland in various competitions, among them short sprints, long-distance races, and events such as the high jump and shot put.

Robyne Johnson, director of men’s and women’s track and field, says it’s important that athletes be well rounded and have the ability to compete in multiple types of events.

“We’ve continued to do well with the distances that we’ve always won in the past,” she says. “Now we’re starting with sprints, jumps, hurdles, horizontal jumps—we’re really looking to grow out in every area.”

The conference championship goes to the school scoring the most combined points in all events. Scoring is determined by event placements: a first place finish earns 10 points, second 8 points, third 7 points, and so on to eighth place, with one point. No points are awarded for finishing lower than eighth.

Although the BU men have finished around the middle of the pack for the past few seasons, they are predicted to finish second this weekend, behind Albany.

Lehane, who oversees both men and women medium-distance, distance, and cross country runners, says that “with the school records we’ve had, in some ways we have some of the best athletes we’ve ever had in certain areas. People are working hard, are knowledgeable about what they’re doing, and are competing well.”

BU is technically divided into four teams—separate track and field and cross country teams for both men and women—but in reality, they’re broken up into specialties. Coaches have charge of players of both sexes based on the events they compete in—something Lehane says is key to BU’s success.

“Track and field is kind of wacky, in that a pole vault event has nothing to do with, say, distance running,” he says. “There’s no connection. So you have to get people who have backgrounds in those events.”

In the past month alone, BU has seen four athletes—two men and two women—break school records in four different races.

At the Terrier Invitational on January 28, Katie Matthews (SAR’12) smashed the BU record for fastest 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:52.80, qualifying her for the NCAA tournament for the third time, the second time for the 5,000 meter.

The next day, R. J. Page (CAS’13) earned BU’s fastest men’s 200-meter time ever, coming in at 21.34. Incredibly, although he finished within one second of the best time, it was the day’s fourth-fastest time.

Shelby Walton, Boston University Terriers Track and Field

Shelby Walton (center) broke a school and facility record in the 60-meter dash, with a time of 7.53 seconds, in this year’s Valentine Invitational.

At the Valentine Invitational on February 11, Shelby Walton (CAS’12) set the school and facility record for fastest 60-meter time, also at the TCC. Walton, Most Outstanding Track Performer at last year’s AE championships, completed the race in 7.53 seconds.

That same day, Rich Peters (CGS’12) broke his own record for fastest mile in BU history, finishing at 3:57.8, a time that qualifies him for the NCAA tournament as well.

Lehane predicts that each of these record-breakers will do well, but says to watch for some of the program’s less-heralded competitors this weekend also.

“Individualization is a key component of our sport, which we look at as a strength,” he says. “In some sports, your role might be to sit on the far end of the bench, and that’s about it. In our sport there is no bench.

“Everybody competes fully in their events. It is kind of different, but what’s nice about it is each athlete can explore his or her own abilities fully—this group of athletes is really going for it, and they’re well prepared.”

The individual aspects of track and field do set the sport apart, but this time of year, says Johnson, all of the athletes are unified by one mission.

“The ultimate goal, as with everyone else in the conference, is to win,” she says. “Many of the events rely on individuals, but when it comes to conference time, we’re very much team-oriented.”

The Boston University men’s and women’s track and field teams compete in the America East championships today, Friday, February 17, at the Track and Tennis Center, 100 Ashford St. Competition begins at 10 a.m., and the event is free. The AE championships continue tomorrow, Saturday, February 18, at the Track and Tennis Center, beginning at 10 a.m.

Ben Carsley can be reached at bcarsley@bu.edu.

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