April 18, 2013
Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –
It’s been 10 years since Georgia Tech Track and Field last ventured to Raleigh, N.C. for a meet.
Obviously, no one on either current Men’s or Women’s roster was on that team.
But there is no fear of heading into the unknown of the Paul H. Derr Track on the campus of North Carolina State, not even with the high stakes of the ACC Championships. Field events began Thursday morning at 10:00, while track events commenced at 6:00 p.m.
There’s nothing but excitement. That’s as true about the coaches as the student-athletes.
“I’m as excited about this one as I was the first one in the spring of 1980,” said Men’s Coach Grover Hinsdale. “Historically, our guys have always been excited about competing in this competition. I look for them to just compete as hard as they can possibly compete, leave it all in Raleigh and for us to have a great meet, individually and as a team.”
“It’s one of the biggest meets I look forward to every year. It’s certainly one we point to for the season,” said Drosky, who is taking his 19th Yellow Jackets team to the ACCs. “They’ve re-done their facility. So I’m looking forward to seeing that. The last time we were down there, it was a horrible weekend weather-wise, very cold, very windy, but Thursday and Friday look pretty decent and Saturday it could be. It just depends on which way the weather forecast falls.”
Neither Hinsdale nor Drosky would try to forecast this weekend’s weather, but both were willing to forecast their team’s fate this weekend. Both saw bright skies.
“We have a number of individuals that have competed exceptionally well this spring,” said Hinsdale. “I’m just very pleased with the team as a whole and I’m really looking forward to getting into this competition and see what we can accomplish.”
Among the most impressive performers has been sophomore Brandon Lasater, whose recent string of personal bests in the 800 meters, and in both the 800 and the 4×800 relay, at the Florida Relays, has Hinsdale searching for superlatives.
“What he’s done is just remarkable,” said Hinsdale. “I’ve coached for a long time and I’ve seen kids make some remarkable progress but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone go from a solid, good competitive athlete into an exceptionally competitive athlete as he has in the last two weeks.
“Going from one week to the next to drop your personal record five seconds in an 800 is absolutely unheard of,” he added. “You don’t even hear of something like that in a mile. To get into an 800 meters and drop from a 153 to a 148 just doesn’t happen. Then to come back the next weekend and better that in an open 800 and then come back on a relay and virtually equal it and win against an All-American, an NCAA finalist and All-American from this indoor season.”
Other athletes to watch include senior pole-vaulter Aaron Unterberger, who has won every event in which he’s competed during the outdoor season, sophomore 1,500 man Jeremy Greenwald, freshman Alexander Reese in the 400, and junior long-/triple-jumper Jonathan Gardner, whose leap of 52’3 3/4″ in the triple is the best in the ACC this year.
While the team will miss sprinter Broderick Snoddy, who will remain in Atlanta with the football team and attend Friday Night On the Flats — his ability to compete would have been questionable anyway, as he’s wearing a cast to protect a broken hand — the Jackets will have senior Perron Jones. Jones will have won before he even takes the track, as he headed up to Raleigh on Wednesday with Assistant Coach Nat Page, to receive his ACC Post-Graduate Scholarship.
“[Snoddy] and Perron pushed each other real well throughout the indoor season and I think it was a benefit to both of them and certainly to Perron to have somebody of that caliber to train with,” said Hinsdale. “But Perron has had a very good indoor and outdoor season. We’re all very proud of Perron and all the things that he’s accomplished throughout his career here.”
Hinsdale and Page also will have their eyes on freshman jumper Myles McDavid.
“Myles has had a very solid year so far,” said Hinsdale. “I believe Coach Page feels that Myles is on the verge of opening up and really putting out a great performance in both jumps. I’m looking forward to watching him compete.”
McLeod hit a school record jump of 43’11 1/4″ at the Florida Relays, the top jump in the NCAA East Region this year, while McKee, an All-American, who finished eighth in the long jump at the NCAA Indoors, has the Region’s top outdoor long jump of the year, going 20’9″ in the Georgia Relays, in early March.
“Both have an opportunity to do very well in the triple jump as well as the long jump,” said Drosky. “Freshman Donjhae Jones has a jump of right at 20 feet from indoors. She replicated that outdoors. She has a great chance to score as well.”
The women are well-represented in several other events. Drosky pointed to junior Monique Pate, who finished seventh in the Pentathlon at the ACC Indoor Championships and hopes for similar success in the Outdoor Heptathlon. Sophomore Ama Larbi, who just missed qualifying for the finals of last year’s ACC 400 hurdles, is back to take that next step. Sophomore Katie Townsend could compete in the 10,000, and Drosky likes both the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
“We have a good group of middle-distance women, who are young, freshmen and sophomores. If they have a really good day can get into the Final,” said Drosky. “It’ll take a really good day but they’re capable of it. We’re just looking forward to going up there, to lining up and competing and we’ll see how things turn out.”
The meet will certainly serve as a building block for the underclassmen on both squads.
“We’re looking forward to them going to the Conference meet,” said Drosky. “We don’t really expect them to score this year but we want to make sure that they get that experience, hopefully run another personal best and continue their development for the rest of their careers.”
“It’s a great competition,” said Hinsdale. “We’ll go up and give them a fight, I assure you.”