UB track & field gears up for MAC Championships
Records are dropping all over the track this season.
The Buffalo Bulls track & field team is having one of its best seasons in program history. Both the men and women’s teams are ranked second in the northeast region – the highest rankings in school history. The Bulls have been destroying program records on a weekly basis. They are now gearing up to head into the indoor Mid-American Conference championships this weekend.
The MAC has a strong conference this year and Buffalo will have to be at the top of it’s game.
“The Mid-American Conference is not a mid-major when it comes to track and field,” said head coach Vicki Mitchell. “It’s a powerhouse so we have our work cut out for us this weekend but we’re going in with a healthy roster, a strong roster and I believe a more confident roster based on what they’ve accomplished all season long.”
Senior sprinter Joshua Gali is one of the biggest standouts in the program this year. He has registered the best times in the MAC at the 200-meter, 400-meter and 4x400-meter relay. He set the program record in all three events and is the favorite to win these three events this weekend.
Gali is joined on the relay team by freshman Gyasi Morris, senior Craig Kaiser and junior Mitchell Moore. Their times are two and a half seconds faster than any other group in the MAC.
Gali explained that the team has been competing with a different attitude this year.
“Last year, everyone was down after their MAC meet because we didn’t place too well,” Gali said. “I know this year everyone came back with a vengeance and wants to do well.”
The women have been running with a vengeance this year. Three women are currently ranked in the top five of their event in the MAC.
Senior Emma Siuciak is currently second in the MAC and set a program record for the pentathlon earlier this year. Sophomore Mikayla Pearce is No. 2 in the long jump. Senior Christine Lyttle became No. 2 in the MAC for the 60-meter hurdles with her performance this past Saturday.
Lyttle knows how tough the MAC can get in track & field. She is now in her fourth year competing in the conference championships. She finished third in the 60-meter hurdles at last year’s indoor MAC championships.
“Each year it gets faster, it gets more competitive, it’s not a joke,” Lyttle said. “The times that are ran at that conference meet can compete with times in the SEC, can compete with times in the big 12, the big ten, it’s not a joke.”
Aside from individual events, the team will also be competing for the MAC title this weekend. Each program is allowed to bring up to 30 men and 30 women. They will compete in 17 different events for each team. The team score is a culmination of the points every member earns throughout the day in each event.
The MAC features a couple of standout teams that will make things difficult for the Bulls.
“Kent [State] and Akron are really strong, both men’s and women’s and Eastern [Michigan] is no joke as well,” Lyttle said. “They’re really strong distance side and they’ve definitively come back with sprints. I’d have to say it’s those three programs for men and women’s.”
Eastern Michigan has proven its dominance in distance running all season. The top three men and the top three women for the 5000-meter in the MAC are all from Eastern Michigan.
Akron currently has 11 competitors ranked as first in the MAC at their event. Kent State has four.
But Mitchell is confident in her team. She sees this group as one of the deepest group of athletes the program has ever had. The team has athletes who are threats in almost every event.
“I think for the first time in a long time we have every event area contributing, we certainly have some areas that are stronger,” Mitchell said. “We have some areas that have shown more depth and more strength than we’ve had before but truly a full team contribution.”
The team lightened their workload this week to prepare for the Championships. The most important conditioning is for their bodies to feel fresh and ready to go.
“We’re going into the highest level of our season so we want to save our bodies,” Lyttle said. “And sort of wind down the training and get ready to drop a big time and have a good performance this weekend.”
Daniel Petruccelli is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org