by Eddie Kerekes, Sports Information Assistant
The Case Western Reserve University track and field team knew the 2019-20 season would be different. And while it changed in ways the team did not expect, the senior class guided the team through both expected and unexpected challenges.
Coming into the year, the team added new lifting standards, had no captains, and set higher expectations. The senior class, consisting of Bailey Flint, Emily Herrmann, Samantha Kelts, Maria King, Abbey Waltz, Tim Andrews, Andrew Green, Jonathan Haling, David Hall, Brian Holden, Michael Hradesky, Darius Inzar, Sam Jenkins, Grant McCarthy, Dominic Oddo, and Mitchell Webb, needed to guide the program through the new challenges and set a foundation for future classes to build on.
"The majority of them rose to the opportunities and led very well. When things came up that were challenges for others, they did the right thing as upperclassmen leadership, carried that torch and said, 'we have to do these things together,'" Head Coach Eric Schmuhl said. "What I found fascinating was that people who would not have been named captains by their peers became some of the best leaders in the program."
In addition to their leadership on the track and the weight room, the seniors are also leaders in the community. Holden led a group of throwers last spring in volunteering at the Cleveland Food Bank that he had hoped to expand to the whole team this year. He thinks that the new tradition will continue next year with underclassmen who were enthusiastic about the experience.
Holden said, "That was a great memory for me, seeing how many of the throwers wanted to get involved. Just to have everyone there supporting a cause that's not just the track team, supporting the Cleveland community, was awesome for me."
Both Herrmann and Holden singled out the University Athletic Association Outdoor Championship Meet in 2019 in Atlanta, their last outdoor meet at CWRU, as their favorite memory. At the meet, the men's and women's teams combined for 17 All-UAA honors, including seven individual conference championships from Holden (javelin), current junior Trey Razanauskas (10,000-meter run), and alumni Cassandra Laios (hammer throw, shot put, discus), Shannon Carroll (javelin), and Ananth Suresh (triple jump).
Holden said, "It was a cool opportunity to go on such a long trip with some of our close friends. It was awesome to see so many people delivering and competing at their best ability. All your work culminates at outdoor UAAs and last year so many people had great performances, and it was just fantastic to see."
"A primary goal of our program is to be the best we can be at the outdoor championship," Schmuhl added. "Every time that we've gone to Emory as a program, we've always absolutely lit it up. We just seem to be our best in that facility and under those conditions and last year was no different."
The seniors still want the underclassmen to know that while they need to work hard, they can still have fun at practices and meets. Holden said that "keeping a goofy side and making sure that people understand you can have fun on the track team while also putting in a lot of hard effort" was the main legacy he wanted to pass down. Herrmann, who had the opportunity to work with underclassmen on a relay team, also added that it is important to not take any opportunity or race for granted. The Class of 2020 knows that all too well, with their final outdoor season cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite everyone staying remote for their final semester, the team still meets over Zoom and frequently texts in group chats. For Herrmann, everyone staying in touch reinforces the biggest impact of the team on her time at CWRU.
"It meant so much by giving me a family at Case [Western Reserve]."
To view all of our Spartan Stories, go to https://athletics.case.edu/general/2019-20/releases/20200330fk1oeq.