May 17, 2013
Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –
Margin for error can be such a relative thing.
Georgia Tech Women’s Head Track Coach and Men’s Distance Coach Alan Drosky thought about that Thursday afternoon while running by CNN center.
“I saw one of the NBA Playoff advertisements about ‘Win or Go Home,'” said Drosky. “When you’re faced with a meet like this where it’s basically get in the top 12 or go home.”
But getting into that top 12, out of a field for 48, isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds.
“Other sports talk about being a game of feet and inches. Well, we’re literally a game of centimeters and 10ths and 100ths of a second,” said Drosky. “That’s what will separate those that advance and those that don’t. It really is trying to get every little bit that you can because that really makes a difference.
“It’s all about trying to get into the top 12 because the top 12 advance to the National Finals, which will be in Eugene, Ore., in two more weeks after this meet,” he added. “So it’s just all about getting into the top 12.”
Almost as if to serve as a reminder to avoid 13th, Georgia Tech Men’s and Women’s Track and Field will send 13 athletes to next weekend’s East Regional Preliminary Qualifiers for the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships being held March 23-25 at Irwin Belk Track inside of Aggie Stadium, in Greensboro, N.C., on the campus of North Carolina A&T.
Tech had nine men — Broderick Snoddy (100 meters), Brandon Lasater, Zack Fanelty, and Cole Jackob (800M), Jeremy Greenwald (1,500M), Mykhail Chambers (high jump), Jonathan Gardner (triple jump), Myles McDavid (long jump), Aaron Unterberger (pole vault) — and four women — Julienne McKee and Jhanelle McLeod (long jump and triple jump) and Jasmine Kent, Donjhae Jones (long jump) — qualify.
But it’s getting into top 12 can be so nail-biting. Even a personal best doesn’t insure anything.
That was made harshly clear to Tech in the fates of a couple of their athletes.
“We were disappointed to just miss with two others,” said Drosky. “Katie Townsend, a 10K girl was the first person out, she missed by one second over a six-mile race, and one of our hurdlers, Ama Larbi, was the third girl out in the 400 hurdles. Both of them are sophomores. They both had great seasons and they can build on that and make it to the meet next year.”
They can ideally follow in the footsteps of McLeod, who qualified in two events as a senior, after learning the hard way as a junior.
“You could actually be left home, a centimeter or two out of going to Nationals. That’s actually what happened last year with Jhanelle. They pick 12 and she was 13th it was a centimeter,” said Nat Page, assistant coach responsible for jumps and hurdles. “But having been there and done that they know that they want to go there, they want to perform early, get themselves set up in a very nice position and put less pressure on themselves.”
The pressure will be on regardless of whether you enter the meet in the top 12 or anywhere outside of it. For example, McLeod is third in the triple jump, but her leap of 13.39 meters and McKee, who was 12th, was less than 4/10ths of a meter (12.90). Rebecca Stoyle of UMass Amherst was 13th at 12.88.
Snoddy enters the meet with a 10.32 in the hundred meters. That’s fourth-best among football players who doubled in track, but leaves him 15th overall. Of course, he’s 3/100ths of a second from being in the money.
It’s the same in the distance races, as Brandon Lasater ran the 11th-best 800 meters, but was 5/100ths of a second from being on the outside looking in, while Jackob, who is 26th in the 800 is 34/100ths of a second from being in the top 12.
Greenwald ranks 30th in the 1,500 meters, but would be 2.30 seconds from packing his bags for Eugene.
Page believes experience will make a big difference and he likes Tech’s experience, especially amongst his jumpers, as McLeod and Kent are seniors, and McKee is a junior who reached NCAAs last year.
His advice to his jumpers could hold true for the entire team, however.
“Experience will help them,” he said. “If they perform the way they’ve been doing all year long, with that type of consistency, we should do pretty well at Regionals.”
Both Page and Drosky believe that now that school is out, the athletes are ready to break out.
“Once school was out they got in a lot of sleep,” he said. “I’m seeing fresh people out there. So I’m watching the practices excel. The concentration is good, the effort is really good, the intensity is really good. So I’m watching what we normally do being done even better. Like we did the first one or two meets, when you go out there so fresh and so happy to compete, I’m seeing that now.
“Georgia Tech academics are a challenge,” said Drosky. “To have a few weeks of being able to just get some good, quality sleep, some rest, some mental rest and to be able to fully focus on the athletic side I think is a net positive. I think we saw that last weekend with the competition in our home meet where we had a lot of individuals run personal bests.”
Personal bests would be great, but 1 through 12 would be even better.
“It comes down to being able to get it done on the day,” Drosky said. “We think the guys are ready, we think they have a great opportunity to get there.”