Gator Track and Field races through indoor season

The Allegheny Women’s Track and Field team is off to a fast start in the spring semester following a second place finish out of 15 teams at the Baldwin Wallace Mid-February Meet on Friday, Feb. 14, at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.

The Gators have finished second in three of their first four scored meets to start the 2019-20 indoor season. Within the North Coast Athletic Conference, the team is chasing Oberlin College for first place finishes at meets and invitationals.

At the Baldwin Wallace Mid-February Meet, the Gators had multiple event winners that contributed to the team’s 111-point second place finish. Pearl Cooper, ’21, placed first in the 1000 meters with a time of 3:11.03 and Sarah Lucas, ’21, placed first in the mile at 5:24.47. Molly Tarvin, ’22, placed first in the 3000 meters at 11:09.14 and Jacelyn Alberts, ’20, finished first in the 5000 meters with a time of 19:30.63.

Cooper attributed the Gators’ early season success to the team’s supportive atmosphere and hard work.

“(The season) has been going pretty well,” Cooper said. “We’ve been training really hard, working together and supporting each other at meets. It’s a really supportive environment. In some teams that I’ve been on, only faster runners hang out with each other, but we all hang out. There’s not really a hierarchy.”

With the times the Gators have posted early in the season, Cooper said that the team aspires to take the top spot in the NCAC. She also hopes to score in her individual events at the NCAC Indoor Championships on Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, Feb. 29, in Denison, Ohio.

“My goals are to score in the 800 (meters) at conferences,” Cooper said. “Last year, I didn’t even make finals. I think as a team it would be really nice to win conferences.”

Despite the team’s success at the Baldwin Wallace Mid-February Meet and Cooper’s personal victory, she said that a scheduling mishap nearly caused the team to miss the event. The meet was running half an hour faster than scheduled and the team had to rush to check in, but Cooper attributed the stress and adrenaline of nearly missing her race to her victory.

The success of the women’s track and field team comes from the members’ dedication to their role as student-athletes on campus, according to Head Coach Justin Linzy.

“They are hard workers, and that’s always the first expectation,” Linzy said. “They come in prepared, ready to work hard every single day. Our kids help us achieve success in a lot of different ways, whether that’s athletically, academically, providing a good personality and support for the team — all of those things encompass what a good Gator is in our program.”

The Gators feature a first-year class of 17 members that has helped the team achieve its goals on and off the court. Tori Valachovic, ’20, said the indoor season is a time for her to prepare for the outdoor season and to help create an atmosphere conducive to winning.

“My goals were to build on the community of the team,” Valachovic said. “My goals were more team-oriented than performance-oriented. The new members we have added on have really added to our sense of community and have all bought into our goals to progress as a team. Each of them brings something special to the table.”

Maya Rachel, ’23, placed fifth for the Gators in the 800 meters in their Feb. 14 meet with a time of 2:31.98. Alexa Whyte, ’23, ran the 5000 meters in 21:31.91, earning her fifth place.

The impact of first-year members was echoed by Cooper.

“We have a lot of (first-year) runners, so it’s been fun getting to know them,” Cooper said. “We’ve been training really hard, putting in the work and people have been really excited to race. We’ve been racing really aggressively and supporting each other at meets. A lot of that is helped by our new runners who are scoring a lot of points.”

Entering her senior season as a captain, Valachovic said this year’s team has been one of the most positive and supportive that she has been a part of at Allegheny.

“This is a culture that we’ve been working on the last four years that I’ve been in this program,” Valachovic said. “We’ve been moving more towards a family-oriented approach to the team culture. We really focus on building each other up. We support each other, we push each other to do our best and we keep each other accountable, but in the end, we are friends that care about each other on a fundamental level.”

Although Valachovic said the indoor season was a preparatory and recovery period for her main event, the 400 meter hurdles, she placed fifth in the 55 meter hurdles and her time of 9.61 seconds ranks her seventh in the NCAC for the event.

The team has placed an emphasis on athlete health and wellbeing, which has had a direct impact on their team success, according to Valachovic.

“We have been really keeping up a narrative of self-care and making sure that you’re staying healthy and doing all the things you need to do to keep your body healthy,” Valachovic said. “I think that personal maintenance has helped our depth in this early part of the indoor season to be placing at the meets.”

The Gators’ next meet is the Mount Union Raider Tune-Up in Alliance, Ohio. The team will then compete in the NCAC Indoor Championships on Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, Feb. 29, which will conclude the indoor season. The outdoor track and field season will begin with the Polar Bear Final Qualifier at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio.

Heading into conferences, Linzy said his message to the team remains constant, and that the team’s positive and energetic atmosphere have helped to create a culture of winning.

“Our goal is always to compete as hard as we possibly can and to be tenacious competitors,” Linzy said. “We have to attack the meet with aggression and tenacity and a competitive and professional excellence that our program, institution, faculty, staff and administration can all be proud of.”