The Case Western Reserve University men's and women's track and field programs are looking forward to beginning the indoor season as they prepare to host the Fourth-Annual CWRU Spartan Holiday Classic on Saturday, December 3rd at the Veale Center Indoor Track on the CWRU campus. Action at the meet is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m.
Along with Case Western Reserve, five teams are slated to participate at the meet, including John Carroll, Oberlin, Ohio Wesleyan and Muskingum.
Fans unable to attend Saturday's meet can follow all of the action with a live video webcast at http://athletics.case.edu/sports/mtrack/live.
The teams have been looking forward to this meet since stepping foot on campus in August and beginning with preseason practices.
"It was impressive to see how fit and hungry this group was in October," said Head Coach Eric Schmuhl. "Anybody can have a good meet but we need consistency and health to make it to May. That all comes from the way you train and treat your body in the fall semester. It's money in the bank."
The four captains, two men and two women, have provided incredible leadership and energy during the preseason in preparation for the indoor season.
"We graduated an incredible group of captains last spring that laid the groundwork for many years of competitive team culture," stated Schmuhl. "This group is expected to make their own mark in our program history. They know that. Every year is different. Different challenges and advantages come up and they have to capitalize on them. I think this group is very gifted in knowing where we've been and where we want to get to. They've been leading by example all fall and will continue to be the pulse of our program throughout the season."
Wahner, an All-UAA and All-Great Lakes Region honoree, broke the 200-meter record last season with a time of 22.48. Wahner and Mlack, also an All-UAA and All-Great Lakes Region honoree, were members of the 4x400-meter relay team that broke the school-record with a time 3:19.47 at the UAA Indoor Championships.
Omilabu, an All-UAA honoree in the weight throw, broke the school-record in the weight throw last season with a distance of 17.02 meters at the Polar Bear Last Chance Meet.
During the 2015-16 indoor season, six school records were broken on the men's side and six on the women's. Of the 12 records, seven individuals and relay teams are returning in hopes of continuing to make marks on the record books.
"Last season [indoor and outdoor], we broke 17 school records and the majority of those folks are back for more this year and they're hungry," said Schmuhl. "We have the fastest and deepest sprinting groups we've ever had here and they know it. Every week, a new team member could be holding one of those records. For the first time in a while, we have some serious NCAA hopefuls and I think that stirs the drink for our team's competitive climate. They know a school record should come with a trip to nationals. We're closer every week."
On the men's side, after a 21st place performance at the 2016 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships, junior Sam Merriman will move from the course to the track optimistic to keep up great times for a one mile distance to the 5K, including his record breaking time of 1:55.00 in the 3,000-meter run at UAA Indoor Championships last season.
Junior Andrew Ibibo, an All-Great Lakes Region honoree in the 4x400-meter relay, broke the 500-meter record last season with a time of 1:06.68 and is looking to return to the track to better that time.
Sophomore Rasheed Ajala broke the school-record in the 60-meter dash last season with a time of 7.07 and will look to further improve his time in the sprints.
Junior Skylar Braga broke the 60-meter record last season with a time of 7.98 and returns in hopes of setting new career times in the sprints and hurdles. Sophomore Olivia Newman, an All-Great Lakes Region honoree in the 400-meter dash and a member of the school-record breaking 4x400 relay team, plans to keep momentum from last year.
Last season the men's and women track field program totaled 15 All-UAA honors at the outdoor championship and now that culture has carried over into this season.
This new culture is something the freshman have walked into and embraced thus far in the preseason.
Newcomers to keep your eye on: Dominic Oddo (multi-event), Tom Fu (sprints), Jonathan Haling (sprints), Bari Love (sprints), Samantha Kelts (multi-event), Christina Hemmingsen (hurdles), Brianna Rees (sprints), Vanessa Pasadyn (mid-distance), and Melissa Cuellar (throws).
"We have some outstanding competitors among the first years," said Schmuhl. "What better still, some of them don't realize how good they can be in the coming years. On the men's side, I'm very much looking forward to watching guys like Dom Oddo, Tom Fu, and Jon Haling blossom. For the women, Bari Love could be one of the best sprint talents CWRU has ever seen and we're far from our potential. Sam Kelts, Christina Hemmingsen, Bri Rees, Vanessa Pasadyn, and Melissa Cuellar all have huge potential as first year competitors. If we keep plugging along and stay healthy, this group can have an incredible future."
After the meet this Saturday, the Spartans will wrap up the fall semester with a meet at Kent State University on Saturday, December 10th.
CWRU will resume its season at the SPIRE Invitational in Geneva, Ohio on Saturday, January 21st, before returning to Cleveland to host the 10th-Annual Battle for the Obelisk on Saturday, January 28th. The Spartans will then go on the road for two meets, before traveling to Westerville, Ohio for the Indoor All-Ohio Championships. CWRU concludes the month of February with a trip to Waltham, Massachusetts for the UAA Indoor Championships.
Following the UAA Championships, the Spartans will have one final opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championships at the ONU Polar Bear Last Chance Meet on March 4th. Team members who qualify will then travel to Naperville, Illinois for the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships on March 10-11.