The Georgetown track and field team will travel to State College, Pa., this weekend to compete at the Penn State National. The meet will feature such top teams as Villanova, Syracuse, Stanford and the host team Penn State, and it will allow the Blue and Gray to test themselves directly against some of the nation’s best runners.
The Hoyas have opened the indoor season strong through three meets. The women’s team is ranked ninth nationally by the USTFCCCA. Within the last two weeks, graduate student Billy Ledder, sophomore Ryan Manahan and senior Hannah Neczypor have been named Big East Track Athletes of the Week.
To qualify for the NCAA Championships, an individual runner must post a top-16 time for the country, and for a relay team, top-12; at the moment, the men’s team holds four of those 16 spots in the 800 meter and three in the 3000m, and the women control two spots in the 800m.
Director of Track and Field Patrick Henner, in his eighth season at the helm of Georgetown’s cross-country and track programs, has been impressed by his team’s first few events.
“We’re off to a very good start, men and women, across the board. We feel like there are going to be some good situations to put up some good times, some competitive situations this weekend,” Henner said. “As we’re moving through the season, our top priority is obviously to position our athletes so that they can run times that are going to be ranked in the top 16 come the end of the year.”
On the men’s side, the momentum from early-season success is vital to sustain as top-16 spots are far from set in stone.
Junior Ahmed Bile currently sits tied for sixth with fellow Georgetown sophomore Amos Bartelsmeyer in the 3000m in the country.
“The indoor season has gone really well thus far,” Bile said. “People are opening up faster than they ever have, setting [personal records] early in the season. We are just looking to keep this momentum going throughout the remainder of the indoor season and through June and July.”
The weekend’s meet is the third-to-last in a short indoor track season, with the Big East Championships approaching in one month and the NCAA tournament in mid-March.
Sophomore Sabrina Southerland knows the competition will be difficult at Penn State but hopes the competitive atmosphere will bring out the best in her running.
“There are a lot of good girls out there coming to the Penn State meet,” Southerland said. “I know Stanford is going to be there, and they have a lot of good 800-meter runners, and Villanova as well. So this will be a good time for me to get a good time. This will be my first 800 of the season, so hopefully they’ll push me.”
Southerland also focused on the importance of a team spirit while running. She will run her first 800m of the season at Penn State this weekend after helping the 4x400m team to a second-place finish at the Father Diamond Invitational three weeks ago.
“I try not to focus on [exact times], and just compete with the other girls, because that’s when you’ll get times, when you’re just in the moment competing,” Southerland said. “We’ve been coming together as a team and running for each other. Although this is an individual sport, we still run for each other when we get on the line.”
Bile, too, hopes the competitive atmosphere will improve times, and is making sure to keep his eyes on the final prize: qualifying for NCAAs.
“We are expecting a very high level of competition at this meet,” Bile said. “Some of the best runners in the country will be here so this weekend will be a good one to run fast. I’m expecting a lot of Hoya wins this weekend and we are also looking to get as many on the national qualifying list as possible.”