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 Fifth-Annual CWRU Spartan Holiday Classic on Saturday, December 2nd 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, six teams are slated to participate at the meet, including Allegheny, John Carroll, Muskingum, Oberlin and Ohio Wesleyan.
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.
"This has been one of the best summers I've seen from the program in my time at CWRU," said Head Coach Eric Schmuhl. "People came in fit. It was clear they got a taste of something they liked last spring. The best part for me is seeing the leadership coming from those with the most diligent work habits. Since August, if you're not working, you're losing. "
Beginning his sixth season at the helm of the track and field programs at CWRU, Schmuhl welcomes back assistant coaches Kathy Lanese, Rocco Mitolo, Vincent Graziano, Chris Kelly and Mark Kulinzki.
The seven captains, three men and four women, have provided incredible leadership and energy during the preseason in preparation for the indoor season.
"Our captains are always a special group because it goes beyond the folks with the C next to their name," said Schmuhl. "Some of our best leaders are unsung and the heart and soul of how we operate day to day."
Merriman, an All-UAA and All-Great Lakes Region honoree, broke the 3,000-meter record last season at the UAA Championships with a time of 8:36.44.
Gupta earned All-UAA honors after placing third in the weight throw with a toss of 14.57 meters, while Kloster and Newman teamed with sophomore Bari Love and former Spartan Abby Casalnova to break the school record in the 4x400-meter relay with a time of 4:05.56 at the UAA Indoor Championships.
During the 2016-17 indoor season, six program records were broken on the men's side and three on the women's. Of the nine records, five individuals and relay teams are returning in hopes of continuing to make marks on the record books.
"For the men, we learned how to see ourselves as a top team in the UAA, particularly in the sprints," said Schmuhl. "I believe that group set a tone for expecting to be standing on boxes in April for every event."
"For the women, we continued our great throws tradition last spring and hope to improve on it," said Schmuhl. "Until we're sweeping every throw, those ladies won't be satisfied. I think our goal as a co-ed program is to be in the top 3 on both sides. We know we have the talent and people are confident that we belong with the top programs in the UAA."
On the men's side, after an 11th place performance at the 2017 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships, senior Sam Merriman will move from the course to the track optimistic to keep up great times for a one mile distance to the 5K.
Senior Andrew Ibibo, junior Joseph Cabral and sophomore Jonathan Haling (All-Great Lakes Region honorees in the 4x400-meter relay) return after winning the UAA title in the 4x400-meter relay with a time of 3:22.56, becoming the first-ever CWRU's men's relay team to win the event.
Junior Tyler Bushman and sophomore Dominic Oddo are also back after claiming All-UAA finishes in their respective events. Bushman placed third in the weight throw with a mark of 14.87 meters, while Oddo picked up a third-place finish in the long jump with a distance of 6.62 meters at the 2017 UAA Indoor Championships.
Senior Ben Zelkin broke the school-record in the 60-meter dash last season with a time of 6.96 and will look to further improve his time in the sprints.
Senior Cassandra Laios became the first CWRU woman to sweep the weight throw and shot put and the UAA Indoor Championships last season. She won the weight throw on the first day with a toss of 15.89 meters. On the second day, Laios hit a mark of 12.53 meters to claim the title in the women's shot put. Laios became the first Spartan woman to be named UAA Most Outstanding performer. Earlier in the indoor season, Laios also broke the school record in the shot put with a mark of 12.64 meters at the Joe Banks Invitational.
Also setting a school record for the Spartan women during the indoor season was sophomore Vanessa Pasadyn. She finished sixth in the preliminaries of the 800-meter run at the 2017 UAA Indoor Championships with a time of 2:19.17, besting the previous school record of 2:20.25 set during the 2015-16 indoor season.
Last season the men's and women's track and field programs totaled 18 All-UAA honors at the outdoor championship and now the 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: Emma Hammelef (jumps/throws), Taylor Jackson (throws), J'Niah Johnston-Reynolds (sprints), Alissa Kato (jumps), Jordan Butler (multi-event), Musa Hakim Jr. (sprints), Dylan Warren (mid-distance) and Javon Colvin-Hatchett (throws).
"Emma Hammelef and Taylor Jackson will make the deepest throwing squad in the league even deeper," said Schmuhl. "Their potential is as great as any first years we've seen. J'Niah Johnston-Reynolds will be a contributor in the sprints for us and Alissa Kato gives us a potential UAA scorer in the pole vault."
"For the men, Jordan Butler has substantial upside," said Schmuhl. "He was primarily a basketball guy growing up so he's a great athlete who just needs formal reps and a lot of them. Another guy with big upside is Musa Hakim Jr. Super raw sprint talent that will get to grow in the program surrounded by the fastest group we've ever had. Dylan Warren is another one who meets that profile of somebody who could be very special down the road. Lastly, Javon Colvin-Hatchett. If he puts the work in, there is no doubt in my mind he won't win a few UAA titles for us in the throws."
After the meet this Saturday, the Spartans will wrap up the fall semester with a meet at Kent State University on Friday, December 8th through Saturday, December 9th.
CWRU will resume its season at the SPIRE Invitational in Geneva, Ohio on Saturday, January 20th, before returning to Cleveland to host the 10th-Annual Battle for the Obelisk on Saturday, January 27th. 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 as they host the UAA Indoor Championships at the Veale Center Indoor Track in Cleveland, Ohio.
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 Birmingham, Alabama for the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships on March 9-10.