Jonathan Buchannan finished 11th in the hammer throw on Saturday with a 58.5 meter throw. PHOTO CREDIT: gorhody.com
The University of Rhode Island men’s track and field team started their outdoor season in North Carolina over the weekend at the annual Raleigh Relays.
After winning the Atlantic-10 indoor conference championship and finishing second at the IC4A Championships, URI is now shifting their focus to the outdoors. Led by head coach Trent Baltzell, the Rams have a chance to win their third straight outdoor track and field conference championship, but first they started their season in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Raleigh Relays are hosted by North Carolina State and have students from 156 schools come from all over the country to compete. Some of the events have over 190 competitors. With a field so large, it’s difficult to finish on the podium for any event. However, it’s still a great chance for the URI players to set new personal bests, develop, learn, and compare themselves to inter conference opponents according to Baltzell.
Looking ahead and comparing themselves to other Atlantic 10 competition is something that URI’s coaching staff is very invested in. Baltzell admitted that when his team is competing at these larger meets like the Raleigh Relay, they pay attention to how URI stacks up against the rest of the A-10.
“When we go to a meet this big, we are also kinda seeking out the other Atlantic 10 competitors,” Baltzell said. “At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter but it’s exciting to know how you stack and compare to everyone else and to know what you need to do going forward.”
One event where the Rams compared rather well against their Atlantic 10 competition was the javelin. It was the only event that would land a Ram on the podium. Fourth-year Lucas Frost tossed the javelin 68.95 meters for a new personal best, beating his previous mark by over a meter and finishing third overall in a field of 42. His fellow Ram, third-year student Nikolaj Freschlin placed ninth and first-year Adam Dubois finished in 11th in his college debut. Those three finished well ahead of any other A-10 competitor; the closest A-10 competitor was George Mason fourth-year Cason Gardner who finished in 18th overall.
Second-year Ryan Tona’s performance in the high jump was far and away the best of the A-10 field. Tona jumped 2.01 meters, .04 less than his personal best, which he set last year at the outdoor A-10 conference championship. Tona’s jump placed him seventh of 29 competitors and was the best jump by any competitor from the Atlantic 10. Two other Rams, fifth-year Jonathan Reichbach and second-year Matthew Santy finished 10th and 11th respectively. That makes for three Rams in the top four for the Atlantic 10 competitors.
In the long jump, Tona jumped 6.74 meters which was good enough for 11th place. Tona’s teammate, second-year Matthew Santy, jumped 6.50 meters which was a new personal best.
According to coach Baltzell, Tona is part of an important group of young players who are transitioning into a leadership role, with the departure of graduate Stephen Cirella and fifth-year Johnathan Buchanan entering his last season with the team. Baltzell says that his development along with second-year Jarrett Young, who finished 26th of the 89 competing in the 400 meter, are key to the success of the team not just now, but the future as well.
“They are the core of the team right now and they’ve developed into that role over the last year or two,” Baltzell said. “It’s crucial to have guys develop like they have in terms of recruiting, you need to show recruits that you’re not just winning titles but you’re developing.”
URI has certainly done both for a while, as the Rams have won three straight indoor A-10 championships and have a chance to win a third outdoor A-10 title come the end of this season.
Back in 1982, URI hired now Hall of Fame head coach John Copeland, during his 39 year tenure he instilled good values and great work ethic into his players according to current head coach Baltzell. Baltzell continues to do the same for his athletes over 40 years later. Tona feels as though he’s come a long way as an athlete and a person and he has his team to thank for that.
“It’s worked out, I’ve put the work in, it’s not easy, but doing ten different events and trying for ten different events definitely takes a toll on you,” Tona said. “It teaches you how to overcome and be able to develop a work ethic not only in track but in school, work, and makes you a better person to be around.”
Tona and the rest of the underclassmen are becoming great leaders for this URI team and according to coach Baltzell are crucial to the recruiting process. Proving that you can develop talent into something more than just an athlete is important to the young men visiting URI, according to Baltzell.
The Rams are back in action this Friday as they travel to Smithfield, Rhode Island to compete in the Bryant Black & Gold Invitational.