Sports Staff Writer
The UNC Asheville track and field team is underway with the indoor season, lasting from December to February.
Track and field teams are made up of different specialties: sprints, hurdles, mid-distance, distance, throws, jumps and pole vaulting. The sport encompasses the fundamentals of nearly all other sports.
Jasmine Cox, a freshman health and wellness and psychology student from Concord, is excited to be underway with her first collegiate track season. Cox said she’s been running track since she was seven years old, ever since then it has been a goal of hers to run at the Division 1 level.
Cox described the indoor season as a preseason for outdoor where athletes can get used to competing and work out any kinks in their training.
“Once you get to the outdoor season you can’t do as much intense training such as lifting and long sprint workouts,” said Cox, who runs the 100-meter. “You have a meet every weekend so you would just burn out.”
The Bulldogs recently competed in the Chipotle Marshall Invitational in Huntington, West Virginia on Saturday. This meet is a favorite for the UNCA track and field team because Marshall University has an oversized 300-meter track, compared to the regular 200-meter indoor track. The meet proved to be fast with a new school record in the men’s 800-meter.
Matthew Harding an economics student from Conway, North Wales won the half-mile in a quick time of 1:50.93, taking off four seconds from the previous record. Several other Bulldogs had top 10 finishes including Chris McKoy in the men’s long jump finishing eighth, Kayli Nichols finished seventh in the 60-meter hurdles, tying her school record of 8.86.
“To qualify for conference you have to have a top 16 time or mark in your event out of the entire conference by the time the meet rolls around,” Cox said.
The team qualified for the Big South conference Championship and now it’s up to the UNCA coaches to select which athletes will compete in this meet.
Hunter Koike, a junior health and wellness student from St. Augustine, Florida, is UNCA’s only decathlete. However, in indoor, the athletes do the heptathlon, consisting of seven events instead of 10.
“I was doing the heptathlon and a couple open events last year at the indoor conference meet and during my sixth event of the day in the open 200-meter, I pulled my hamstring,” Koike said, looking dissatisfied. “I couldn’t compete the next day and finish the heptathlon which I happened to be winning after the first day.”
Unfortunately, Koike injured his hip flexor last meet and won’t get his chance at redemption in the heptathlon, although the possibility of racing other events remains.
“If I’m able to run by conference I hope to run in some open events and do the 60-meter, which is only run indoors, the 200-meter and the 400-meter.”
Dominic Collichio, a senior health and wellness student from Chapel Hill and standout distance runner, said he would like to move up in the UNCA all-time rankings for the 3000-meter and 5000-meter this indoor and outdoor season. Collichio is 13 seconds away from both indoor school records.
Collichio said the distance squad has some goals for the conference meet.
“I know for some of us distance runners, we would like to win the DMR, or distance medley relay, at indoor conference this year,” Collichio said. “The DMR consists of a 1200-meter run to a 400-meter sprint to an 800-meter dash and then a 1600-meter run to finish it off. It’s a super fun race.”
However, the team has a goal that is focused off the track.
“As a team, we would like to come together more. With a lot of college track teams, the distance runners, the sprinters, and the field athletes keep to themselves and don’t intermingle,” Cox said. “This season we have done a good job of all coming together with team outings and just hanging out outside of track.”
Koike, last year’s team MVP, said the team is always super supportive of everyone, when people are not competing they are cheering on those who are.
Although the indoor season is important, the outdoor season is the main priority for the track and field team.
Collichio will be redshirting the outdoor season this year to allow for an additional season of eligibility in the spring of 2018. According to the NCAA, a redshirt athlete is one who withdraws from a college sport to develop skills and extend the period of time they can compete for the university. Collichio will still be able to compete this spring but as an unattached runner, so he will not score for the Bulldogs nor will he be able to travel with the team.
Koike said he looks forward to going against some of the best competition in the country from powerhouse schools in the SEC this outdoor season. He feels pride coming from a small school competing against these larger universities.
“Not many people know of UNCA, so when they see an Asheville guy in front, you know they’re like ‘Who is this?’” Koike said. “There is a lot of pride being a Bulldog.”