By: Leigh Hatton
On Jan. 15, UMW’s track and field team attended Christopher Newport University’s Captain Invitational, the first of many meets they will represent the university in during this competitive season.
“The goal of the meet was to get the rust off, and I think we were successful at that,” said Patrick Brown, a senior political science major. “No one on the team has done indoor track in almost two years, so it’s nice to be back.”
At the meet, Brown won the men’s 3,000-meter event with a time of 9:17. Since this meet occurred so early in the season, other members of the team shared that their goals were not necessarily to win.
“We had two days to practice before the meet on Saturday, so we were prepared to treat this meet like a practice day,” said Valentina Leon-Ledezma, a senior psychology and sociology major. “We wanted to get solid times in and see where we were at physically.”
Leon-Ledezma placed third in the women’s 200-meter event with a time of 28:85.
“Overall, we’re happy with how we performed,” she said. “The results on paper might not be personal bests, but it showed us what we need to work on for the rest of the season.”
The track and field team is also dealing with the departure of their head coach Kunle Lawson, who has been coaching at UMW for the past eight years. The student-athletes remarked on the significant role that Lawson has played in the team’s successes.
“I cannot stress enough that Coach Lawson is the team,” said Brown. “I fear that without him, the team will disintegrate more than it already has. The amount of people who leave the team each year is more than the amount who join. With the amount of people we currently have on the team, it’s very difficult to be competitive.”
Leon-Ledezma shared her admiration for Lawson.
“Coach Lawson has had an amazing impact on the team,” she said. “He is intentional with his coaching and takes pride in his athletes. In the eight years he has been at Mary Washington, he has shown us what a good coach should be, and he is leaving us in good hands.”
The team’s upcoming meet will take place at George Mason University. More teams will be attending this meet, including some Division I schools, so members of the team are anticipating a bigger challenge.
“We are excited to compete against people that can push us more than what we are used to,” Leon-Ledezma said. “My goal is to hit a season [personal record] in the 60 meters to help climb up the conference standings. It will be key to be aggressive from the start of the race and finish the race strong.”
Brown is also looking forward to the competition.
“Our next meet is tougher competition, but I like that,” he said. “The team will have had more time to get in some training so I expect everyone to be in better form. Personally, I’ll be running a different event. At CNU, I ran in the DMR [distance medley relay] and 3K, but at Mason I’m going to be running the 5K.”
Amber Zipfel, a senior English and creative writing major, discussed her race strategy for the upcoming meet.
“My goal is to get a faster time than the last race and strategize for the run, rather than just running,” Zipfel said. “I’m thinking of writing desired lap times on my hand and following that. These races will be faster, so we’ll get faster times because the other runners will really push us.”
Brown highlighted the difficulties that the team deals with during the winter competitive season.
“Indoor track should really be called winter track because we still do all our training outdoors,” he said, “It does really suck in the cold, and it makes snow especially annoying. We do compete indoors, but there is a challenge there because the air is always super dry.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Leon-Ledezma expressed confidence in her team.
“We look really strong and are ready to put up a fight at our competitions,” she said. “This year, we’re hosting the outdoor conference championship at Mary Washington, which is a super exciting way to end my senior year.”
The team’s next meet is scheduled to take place on Jan. 28 and 29 at George Mason University.