The UConn men’s track and field team opens their indoor season in Boston this Saturday as they participate in the Boston University Season Opener.
The men’s team doesn’t traditionally participate in meets against other schools this early, usually opting to hold their typical Blue/White intra-squad competition in the Field House. This year however, the Huskies will hold their Blue/White meet at BU, head coach Greg Roy said.
“When we show up in different colored blue and white shirts, no one's gonna know what’s going on besides one of (BU’s) assistants, (Mike) Delgado, a former runner of mine,” Roy said.
For a squad that has a whopping 26 freshmen on the roster this year, having interscholastic meets earlier in the year will serve a dual purpose: getting the young team more experience, and getting the older athletes a head start on qualifying for the NCAAs, Roy said.
“The primary goal every year is to win the conference championship, but (goal) 1A is to qualify as many of the guys for the NCAAs as possible.”
The major force in American Athletic Conference track and field that UConn will have to compete with is the formidable Houston squad, led by former Olympians and 100m world-record holders Leroy Burrell and Carl Lewis.
The combination of talent in that area and the best coaching around means that Houston dominates pretty much every year in the sprinting category, and they used that advantage to catapult themselves to an AAC championship last year, taking home top spots in the outdoor 100m dash and 400m dash, the top two spots in the indoor 60m dash finals and the top three spots in the indoor 200m dash finals.
The key for UConn to make up that difference in talent will be their stellar long distance running crew, led by senior Mike O’Donnell, a three-time AAC champion in the 1500m, and sophomore Eric Van Der Els, who won the 1500m in the Pan-American Junior Championships over the summer.
Senior pole vaulter Craig Hunter is also looking to have another monster year. He was sidelined due to injury last year, but was a first-team All-American the year before after putting up a career best 5.4-meter (17.7 feet) leap to finish eighth in the country.
“We hope that Craig is able to clear 18 feet this year,” Roy said. “If you’re an 18-foot pole vaulter, you’re legit.”
Participating in the meet on Saturday will be athletes from Boston University, UConn, AIC, Sacred Heart, Bermuda Athletic Association, Albany, Boston College, Northeastern, Harvard, Dartmouth, New Mexico, Baylor, Utah, North Carolina State and others.
UConn looks to improve upon a successful 2016-17 season in which they had eight top-three finishes in meets, and came in second in the AAC Championship to Houston.
Luke Swanson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.