By Meredith Ristic
The UNC Asheville men's and women's track and field teams will open the outdoor season over spring break at the Coastal Carolina University Invitational on Friday and Saturday.
“We’re looking to rebound from a so-so indoor season with a stronger showing in outdoor,” said head track and field coach Jesse Norman. “We’re hoping to have a good meet at Coastal and carry it through our season”
Asheville looks forward to the introduction of several events that come with the outdoor season. On the track, those are the 100m, 100m/110m hurdles, 400m hurdles, 4x200m relay, 1500m, 3000m, 3000m steeplechase and the 10,000m. In the field, the hammer throw, javelin and discus debut.
”On the men’s side, Kurt Hibert will be a big man for us in more ways than one,” Norman laughed. “He was All-Conference in the hammer last year, and he is a lot further ahead on his indoor season this year than he was last year. He will score some big points for us at conference time, and he has the potential to qualify for NCAA Regional.”
Last year, Hibert was third in the hammer throw at the Big South Conference Outdoor Championships at Liberty University.
“I’m having a lot more fun now that I get to really practice hammer full time,” Hibert said. “I’m getting back into my rhythm with the event, and I’m excited to have a huge season with the strength and speed I’ve gained this past year.”
Also in the field, with the introduction of the javelin, Asheville hopes to add a few more points to its conference total with John Bellard and Sam Barbeau competing.
“John came through and scored for us in the high jump at indoor conference,” Norman said. “Hopefully that will translate to him scoring points for us in both events for outdoor.”
Courtney Henry will also add the long jump and triple jump as well as the possibility of a few sprint events for the Bulldogs.
“We’re hoping to have a big breakthrough from Courtney in all of his events in his senior season,” Norman commented.
At middle distance, the Bulldogs are also hoping to have a strong group of competitors in the 1500m.
“We’ll have Patrick (Osborne), Caleb (Smith), Andy (Thornburg) and Dominic (Collichio) in the 1500 for us this year,” Norman said. “Pat has been a big help for us already this year.
“We’re really excited for Caleb’s season as he played a key role for us this past indoor season. As for Dominic, we’re just trying to get him back and healthy,” added Norman.
Sub-1500, the men’s team has quite a few competitors this outdoor season. Miles Brown will run in the 400m, while Osborne, Sebastian Paniagua and Chase Stevens will compete in the 800m.
“Pat has had personal bests in his last three races, so we look forward to what he can do outdoors. Sebastian is five or six seconds ahead of where he usually is indoors, so the 800 outdoor will be interesting,” Norman commented. “Chase had a PR indoor as well, and we’re waiting for him to have a big breakthrough in outdoor.”
In the distance events, Asheville will have Skyler Winchester in the 5K, Brent Schouler in the 3000m steeplechase and Kevin Paradise in the 10K.
“We’re trying to keep Skyler healthy, and this is Brent’s first year in the steeplechase, but he’s already looking good going over the hurdles. If we can get Kevin back to where he was in the 10K, he will be a point scorer for us,” declared Norman.
In the field for the women, Corey McClintock and Alex Blue will be throwing for the Bulldogs. McClintock with enter her redshirt senior year throwing the hammer as her main event, and Blue will make her debut in the javelin.
“Corey had a big breakthrough year in the hammer last year during her redshirt season, said Norman “We’re excited for her to bring that to our team this year.”
In the jumps, Asheville will have Argia Gibson, Alex Blue and Meredith Ristic. Gibson and Blue will take part in the long and triple jump, while Ristic will compete in the high jump.
“Argia is working on getting her runways down right now, but she can definitely be a big player for us in the jumps area. We’re also pretty excited about Alex. She had a great meet at the indoor championships, so we’re hoping for that to carry into outdoor,” Norman said. “Meredith came off her indoor season as a champion. She’s another one that has the potential to qualify for NCAA Regional.”
In the sprints, the Bulldog to watch will be Kassie Pierre. Her main event will be the 400m hurdles.
“Kassie had a great end to her indoor season with a few new PRs, and we’re looking forward to see how that new speed translates to the hurdles for her,” Norman said.
For the middle distances, Asheville will have quite a few runners competing to make the conference squad. Anna Gelbach will range from the 400m to the 800m, while Alyssa Lashway and Kelsie Rubino will be big players in the 800m. Scarlett Beamon, Sarah Heisner, Kylie Smith and Rachel Carson will compete in the 1500m.
“Alyssa ran two PRs at the indoor conference meet, and we are looking for her to score in both the 800 and maybe the 1500,” stated Norman. “Kylie is one of our seniors, and we’re looking for a lot of leadership from her as well as keeping her healthy throughout the season.”
Scarlett Beamon and Katie Gamble will be competing in the steeplechase for the Bulldogs this year.
“Scarlett is another sophomore that we have trying out steeplechase for the first time this year. She and Katie will be learning together, so I’m looking forward to see what they can do with that,” commented Norman.
In the distance events, the women’s team will have competitors in the 5K as well as the 10K. Heisner, Rubino, Adrian Etheridge, Erin Dalton and Kasey Briggs will run in the 5K, while Etheridge and Briggs will also be competing in the 10K.
“Erin and Adrian are actually both right in the same boat going into the outdoor season. They both have been progressing, but they need a breakthrough,” declared Norman. “With Kasey, we really just need to keep plugging along and keep her healthy, and she can have success in both the 5K and the 10K.”
A few of the larger meets the Bulldogs will look forward to this outdoor season will be the 49er Invitational at Charlotte, the Raleigh Relays at N.C. State and the Big South Conference Championships at Winthrop.
“We really just need to put ourselves in a position to score more points when it comes time for outdoor conference,” Norman said.