RU track and field show Warrior strength in midst of program & pandemic changes
by Cate Bennett
Social Media Editor
The Rochester University track and field team persevered during this past school year while competing in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and alterations to the program. After COVID-19 first hit the U.S. in 2020, collegiate sports were shut down and athletes were forced to quarantine, unsure when they would be able to compete again. From at-home summer workouts, one-on-one training through FaceTime, and snowy social-distanced practices, the Warriors were able to complete a successful 2020-2021 season.
Freshman Trenton Fagan trains for the indoor 600M race at Reuther Middle School’s track.
Practice conditions make season even tougher during pandemic
In the fall, athletes were able to train together again. However, they had no choice but to get used to the new normal. Athletes masked-up and social-distanced training took place outdoors. Weight room time was limited. When the winter weather crept in, the team remained outside, wrapped in layers of clothing. The team headed to Reuther Middle School on most days to dust off the fresh snow from the track and the throwing circle before practicing. The poor practice conditions upset many of the athletes, but with limited options, they chose to bundle up and make the most of their situation.
Junior sports management major and captain of the throws squad, Lilly Livsey, said, “For me, it tested my mental strength. But, I think that considering the curveballs since the pandemic, we can truly only do the best with what we are given and show what we have gained because of it.” During the wintertime, some of the athletes wondered why they were not given priority gym time in RU's Warrior Center, especially since they were in season and a non-contact sport. Sophomore business management major and captain of the sprints squad, Brett Malinowski said practicing in the extremely cold, snowy weather was challenging.
“I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to cry more in my life after coming back from practicing in 20-30 degree weather. We’ve had a lot of athletes get injured, sick or even contemplate transferring because of the conditions we’ve had to train in," Malinowski said. He said the challenges didn't dampen the team's spirit and that the team did a great job in carrying each other through the struggle. When the RU wrestling team’s season was canceled due to a COVID-19 spike, the track and field team was finally allowed some training time inside.
Two shot puts lay in the throws circle at Reuther Middle School post-practice.
Athletes have best season in program history despite challenges
In addition to the shift the pandemic made on the team’s training dynamic, the program also experienced changes to its coaching staff. RU promoted Coach Sean Foulkes, previous assistant throws coach, to lead the program after Head Coach Alexander Wilson resigned in January. Not soon after, Coach Marques Johnson and Coach Andrew Bowman were hired as assistant coaches. Foulkes says the program has been blessed with a determined and hardworking group, even when the work isn’t always in the most favorable of conditions. “We have been privy to lots of change this year, but it has allowed us to see people’s commitment to the program and to the university,” he said. “There is something special about when athletes have to band together during difficult times and conditions, in this case snow, that helps form bonds that are key to a team’s success.”
(From left to right) Zhander Currie-Phillips, Andre Daniels, Aaliyah McIntosh, Lance Harnden, Mike Will, Christian Jenkins, Griffin Adams, Brett Malinowski, Paul Nadeau, Cate Bennett, Lilly Livsey, Meriah Smith and Madison Ward gather together to cheer on teammates in finals at Concordia meet. Despite the many obstacles, the team experienced one of its best seasons in program history. The following records were broken this year:
Shot Put, Andrew Shankster
Weight Throw, Andrew Shankster
Long Jump, Natalie Kutzli
60M Hurdles, Madison Ward
Weight Throw, Lilly Livsey
High Jump, Andre Daniels
Shot Put, Andrew Shankster
Discus, Andrew Shankster
Hammer Throw, Andrew Shankster
Javelin, Paul Nadeau
100M, Meriah Smith
Long Jump, Meriah Smith
Shot Put, Lilly Livsey
Discus, Natalie Kutzli
Javelin, Cate Bennett
Hammer Throw, Lilly Livsey
To learn more about the RU track and field team's season, check out Brett Malinowski behind-the-scenes track vlog: