Track and field teams secure conference titles, send athletes to national meet

Now that winter is close to ending, there are many things to look forward to: blooming flowers, green grass and sunny days without blinding snow on the ground. For Geneseo’s track and field team, the warmer weather means the beginning of the outdoor season. 

The team has been practicing and competing on the indoor track for the past five months since the men won their fifth straight SUNYAC Cross-Country Championship and the women won their eighth. 

Beginning in December, the indoor season has been a fortuitous one and, on Feb. 21, they left the Kerr-Pegula Field House at Houghton College with another indoor SUNYAC Championship title in hand for both the men and the women. The men and women were both able to bring home their third consecutive banner. 

Now that the team has once again proven its grit and intensity during the winter, senior distance runner Luke Holtzman took a moment to reflect on the weekend and its meaning going forward.

“The general mood is happy and excited,” Holtzman said. “Although we were projected to win this year, we know that you still have to approach SUNYACs with an underdog mentality because the favorite didn’t win the past two years. So, although it is our third straight, it didn’t feel like just another title, but one that made us happy and excited for outdoor.”

Fifteen of the athletes qualified for the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships in Boston this weekend. Senior mid-distance runner Gillan Faulkner qualified for the 800 and sophomore multi-event athlete Emily Lavarnway made the cut for the pentathlon. Both teams are sending members for the 3,000-meter and long jump. 

Coming back to Geneseo victorious can be attributed to the intense work put in by the athletes. They hold themselves to a high standard of performance, while also setting lofty goals for themselves each year that push their abilities. 

Holtzman explained that the team generally has two main desired outcomes: winning the three main SUNYAC titles—cross country, indoor and outdoor—and score high enough to be top four in the nation and earn a podium spot. With the track record that they have had over the past few years, it would not be surprising to see another top 10 finish in the national rankings once all is said and done. 

All this success does not come without hard work and determination. The team follows a specific structure throughout the year designed by head coach Chris Popovici, meant to adapt to the current leg of the season. 

Holtzman described how the specific practices and training change throughout the year.

“The team will train very hard for the first half of the season and as it gets closer to SUNYACs, the practice intensity will become a little lighter in order to freshen up for the end of the season.” Holtzman said, “However, since the indoor season is over, the team will generally go back into harder base building training such as hill workouts and higher mileage throughout the week.”

The strategic but tough practices prepare the athletes physically for meets, but the team culture is what will likely make the Knights a force to be reckoned with this season. They practice and work out together, encouraging each other to be the best they can. They either win as a team or lose as a team; members often travel just to cheer for their teammates and support them. 

“We believe that the actions of each individual can help another do great things and we strive for each person to push each other no matter if they are the top runner or barely making the team,” Holtzman said.

He also pointed out that Geneseo will continue to see success for the immediate future thanks to a strong underclassmen core that is hungry for national recognition. 

“By no means is this team slowing down in the years to come.”