It’s been anything but a typical beginning to the season for No. 8 ranked Rowan women’s track and field, even by the standards of the reigning New Jersey Athletic Conference Champions.
Between a top-five team placing in a field of 52 Division II and III programs in Georgia and a strong showing across the board for a first-place finish at home weeks later, the team thus far has amazed head coach Derick “Ringo” Adamson, who, in his ninth season with Rowan, usually knows what to expect.
“Things are going according to plan but there’s been quite a bit of surprises,” Adamson said. “I’m proud of them, this is one heck of a team.”
The 2016 campaign began in Atlanta, Georgia, with the Emory Invitational. It was the furthest the Profs have travelled for a meet, having gone as far as Wake Forest in North Carolina in the past, and the largest group brought, 25 athletes.
Benefiting from the extra time to train and rest that came with the week-long trip, Rowan finished fourth out of 29 schools (that scored out of 52 total) at the two-day Emory University-hosted meet on March 18-19.
Leading the way for a Profs team that had several finishes of 10th or better was senior captain Shailah Williams with a winning and university-record time of 55.27 seconds in the 400 meter. Williams’ mark is still the top in Division III, while a time of 3:59.54 by the 4×400 meter relay ranks 11th-best in the nation.
“Everyone was in awe of what we were doing out there,” Adamson said.
The Georgia trip would have more in store than just the meet.
Adamson planned a tour of some interesting sights; the group went to Centennial Olympic Park and the Coca-Cola Museum. They had stops at the Georgia Aquarium and Stone Mountain. They even took in the Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Site.
“Their eyes were open up to a whole lot of places. In my eyes, they were getting a lot of educational value as opposed to just running track,” Adamson said. “Every one of them came back saying it was the greatest thing they had done at the university since they’ve been here.”
Adamson believes the “high” and inspiring moments of the experience have stayed with them, carrying at least a couple weeks into the split second-annual Oscar Moore Invitational and Collegiate Track Conference Championships on Friday, April 1.
Rowan came in first out of five teams in the only home meet of the season, which also acted as a Senior Day. In front of a vibrant home crowd, the team recorded some of the top DIII times.
Freshman Aspen McMillan won the 100 meter hurdles in 14.62 seconds, which ranks eighth nationally. Junior Amanda Brown’s time of 1:02.98 in the 400 meter hurdles is the third-best.
Williams set both the best mark (24.62 seconds) in the 200 meter and fifth-best (12.08 seconds) in the 100 meter. No shortage of honors followed: the New Jersey Athletic Conference Track Athlete of the Week, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division III National Athlete of the Week, and the Corvias Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Metro/Upstate Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Week.
“They turned the heat up out there like you would not believe. That was very, very impressive,” Adamson said.
The biggest surprises for Adamson through the first month have been solid performances by athletes in events unfamiliar to them.
In one example at the Oscar Moore Invitational, sophomore Claire Incantalupo, who is usually in middle distance and hurdles, ran the 100 meter in 12.89 seconds. She took fourth overall in the final heat and to her credit was just .24 seconds off the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship qualifier.
“Ran under 13 seconds, that’s nasty. She’s no sprinter, but look at that. Unbelievable,” Adamson said.
While the captains and veterans have been impressive, underclassmen are making a case for themselves as up and coming leaders of the team, which Adamson is seeking even more than usual this season.
“You’re going to notice them there more because there are a lot of seniors on the team who are leaving,” Adamson said. “Can I replace them? Probably not, because it took me four years to get to this point. So do I have those kind of caliber kids who could get there? Yeah, but you have to be willing to want to do the work to get there.”
A couple invited athletes will go to the Sam Howell Invitational at Princeton University Friday while the rest of the team heads south for the Towson Invitational.
The coach intends to continue trying athletes in different spots on Friday. With the depth of the team, Adamson hasn’t gone to the regulars for all events just yet. He’s ready to do so when the season picks up.
“You don’t have to step on that gas every week,” Adamson said.
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