|Track Preview: CAA Championships|
WILMINGTON, North Carolina - Senior leadership will key UNCW Track & Field this weekend when both the men and women squads take part in the Colonial Athletic Association Championships at George Mason Stadium in Fairfax, Va.
Events take place Friday (May 4) from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and pick back up Saturday (May 5) from 10:00 a.m. to 4:25 p.m., and the Seahawk's Head Coach Jim Sprecher expects to see his veteran leaders step up throughout the competition.
"Both squads are led by a strong group of seniors who have had success at this meet in the past," said Sprecher, who is in his 16th season at the helm of UNCW Track & Field. "Athletes like Wil Zahorodny and Bob Vanderham on the men's side and Jordan Daywalt and Erin Brennan on the women's have really performed well throughout their careers."
And it's not just the seniors, but the entire program as well, that has enjoyed success in the CAA championships. The men's squad captured four out of five titles from 2005 to 2009 and claimed six straight crowns from 1997 to 2002. The women's team is still looking for its first conference championship, but has reaped rewards of late with a second-place finish in 2009.
Last season, the men finished in second behind this year's host George Mason. Vanderham and Zahorodny stood out for UNCW, finishing one-two in the 800 meters.
"It's going to take a team effort and providing as many scoring opportunities as we can for us to win," Sprecher said. "That means we need people to make finals and get as many all-conference athletes as possible. We also need to minimize mistakes so we won't beat ourselves."
In addition to the standouts Zahordny and Vanderham, sophomore Connor Brooks and freshman Ryan O'Connor will also be runners to watch for the men's team this weekend. Brooks set a school record in the 400 meters with a 48-second performance at the Charlotte Invitational, while O'Connor has been consistently in the middle distance mix in his rookie year.
The quartet of runners also carried their success to the relays, teaming up in the 4x800 to win the college division race at the prestigious Penn Relays last weekend in Philadelphia, Pa. The group was tabbed CAA Track Athletes of the Week for the effort.
Sophomore Aerial Chatman has also excelled as an underclassman jumper, topping UNCW's season best list in both the long jump and triple jump.
Keying the Seahawks in the sprints will be senior Jeremy Johnson, who finished third in the 100 meters as a junior and has been strong all spring.
The women finished sixth in the 2011 CAA Championships. Jessie Van Hulst claimed the High Jump portion of the Heptathalon and finished fourth overall in the event, narrowly missing All-CAA honors. Maleena Reid paced UNCW in the sprints, notching a third-place finish in the 100 meters and a seventh-place mark in 200. Krista Mangum finished fourth place in the 100 meter hurdles and looks to score again for the Seahawks in the 100 Hurdles in 2012 after a fourth-place finish as a freshman.
On the women's side, Erin Brennan and fellow senior Becky Boulay have set new marks this season, with Brennan holding the record in the Steeplechase and Boulay setting a new standard in both the 800 and 1000 meters. In 2011, Boulay finished fourth in the 800 meters.
Freshman Clarissa Perkins has been the Seahawks' top thrower this year, setting a school mark in the Shot Put at 13.24 meters in the Seahawk Invitational. Jordan Daywalt is UNCW's top Pole-Vaulter, topping the season charts with a school-record setting 3.96 meter effort at the Charlotte Invitational. As a junior, Daywalt finished fourth.
Entering the weekend championship, UNCW has five athletes among the qualifiers for the NCAA First Round. For the men, Chapman and freshman Cam Walton are ranked in Long Jump, while Chapman also ranks in the Triple Jump. Vanderham will participate in the 800 meters. Daywalt will represent the Seahawk women in the pole vault competition.