March 27 – BETHANY, W. Va. – Coming off of solid performances at the 2014 Presidents’ Athletic Conference Indoor Championships, the Bison track & field programs will look to continue their success in the outdoor portion of their 2014 campaign.
Led by PAC champions Umar Moore (Coraopolis, Pa./Moon), Austin Williams (Euclid, Ohio/Euclid) and Kyle Minger (Richmond, Ohio/Edison Local), as well as the 4x400 meter relay team of Andre Butler (Poolesville, Md./Poolesville), Wesley Scott (Kingwood, W. Va./Preston) Dillon Handy (Alliance, Ohio/Alliance) and Minger, the Bison will look to build upon their second place finish at the PAC Indoor Championships.
Moore, who is coming off a 14th-place finish at Nationals in the triple jump, has already qualified for the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships in the triple jump, after notching a distance of 45’ 5 ¾” last week. Moore is someone that head coach Andy Upton believes has stepped up nicely in the leadership role.
“A lot of times Umar just leads by example,” remarked Upton of his two-time national qualifier. “The success that Umar has had has really pushed other athletes on the team to strive for greatness.
“We have a lot of guys on the team now that come into practice ready to work on a daily basis and then go into competitions expecting to win. The success that Umar has had has and the atmosphere that he has brought has really changed the mindset of the team.”
Two individuals that will look to lead the team on the track are Williams and Minger. Williams took home the PAC Indoor crown in the 60 meter hurdles, while Minger was the lone two-time champion for the Bison in the indoor championships, winning the 400 meter dash as well as being a member of the 4x400 relay team.
“When you look at athletes like Austin and Kyle, these are two guys that go out there expecting to win,” remarked Upton of his indoor champions. “They both come to work hard every day of the week, and they won’t settle for anything less than the best over the course of the season. We are looking for big things out of both of these guys during the outdoor season.”
Other upperclassmen that Coach Upton expects to make an impact include Handy, sophomore Ryan Donnelly (Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills) and junior Shawn Burns (Weirton, W. Va./Weir). Handy, a member of the Indoor Champion 4x400 relay team, has already posted a personal best in the 400 hurdles this spring when he posted a time of 59.04 at the Shamrock Invitational last weekend.
“I think that Dillon has the potential to be a great asset to the team as a whole,” commented Upton. “His drive and determination, as well as the work ethic that he brings to the table, is going to help him become extremely competitive in the conference.”
Burns is coming into the outdoor campaign having posted a third-place finish at the PAC Indoor Championships in the 60-meter run. “Shawn is coming off a tough year last year where he fought through a few injuries,” remarked Coach Upton. “However, now that he is healthy, we expect his speed to be an asset in the 100 and 200 meter dashes, as well as on some relays.”
“Donnelly is possible one of the top three distance runners in the conference,” remarked Upton of his sophomore distance runner. “The good thing about Ryan is that he is so versatile and competitive that we could put him in a number of different events and know we will get the best from him each time.”
This season, the Bison will be without Ben Gregg (Eighty Four, Pa./Bentworth) who will miss the 2014 campaign with an injury. A two-time PAC champion, Gregg is someone that Upton believes will help in other ways.
“It is good to still have Ben around the team even though he isn’t able to compete this year,” remarked Upton. “He is a vocal as well as an emotional leader for the team, and he will be taking more of a mentor/coaching role for us this spring.”
On the women’s side, the Bison will be led by lone senior, and PAC Indoor Champion, Paige Prato (Gibsonia, Pa./Deer Lakes). Prato finished the indoor season by capturing the PAC Championship in the 60 meter dash. However, Upton believes that it is more than just her athletic side that will benefit the team.
“The good thing about Paige is that not only is she an incredible athlete, but her work ethic is out of this world,” said Upton of his lone senior. “She comes into practice every day with the same mind set. She is always ready to work and never takes a day off. It is her leadership that constantly continues to make this team better.”
Perhaps the deepest events for the Bison on the women’s side could be the sprinters. Along with Prato, the Bison will look to Kiera Goolsby (Washington, Pa./Washington), Heather Grinkley (Woodbridge, Va./C.D. Hylton), Maria Jackson-McBride (Spotsylvania, Va./West Potomac) and Lauren Rao (North Tonawanda, N.Y./Sweet Home).
“This could be one of the deepest classes of sprinters that I have ever had,” remarked Upton. “It is fun to watch them go out every day and push each other hard. We always have someone new stepping up in practice, and it’s always fun to watch their competitive nature, even when it’s not in a meet atmosphere.”
Coach Upton also expects the 4x100 women’s team of Goolsby, Grinkley, Jackson-McBride and Prato to make some noise this year, coming off a successful campaign last season.
“Our 4x100 team is hungry to capture a PAC title this year and make it to the national stage at the end of the year,” remarked Upton. “They all work extremely hard and they were so close last year, so it will be fun to see what they bring to the table this season.
“They have a desire to get to the NCAA Championships and they continue to push extremely hard to make that happen.”
In the field events, the Bison could see big things this season out of Grinkley and Rao. Grinkley will compete in the long jump and triple jump, while Rao will compete in the high jump.
The distance events will be anchored by Brooke Bosworth (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville) Rhianna Petrone (Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan) and Jessica Olson (Moon, Pa./Moon).
The Bison will open their team portion of the 2014 outdoor season at West Virginia Wesleyan on March 29. The team will then host two track meets; one on April 5th, the other on April 16th, before the conference season wraps up with the PAC Championships in New Wilmington, Ohio on April 25-26.