BUFFALO, NY – A year after hosting the league meet and posting the best finishes in school history since joining the Mid-American Conference, the University at Buffalo men's and women's outdoor track and field times are prepared to compete at this weekend's MAC Championships in DeKalb, IL and expect successful results.
The Bulls won four league titles, all in field events, at last year's meet. Shot put champions Rob Golabek and Becky O'Brien are back to defend their titles and the Bulls are expected to be in the hunt near the top of the standings in all the throwing events (shot put, hammer, discus, javelin).
Golabek set the UB record with his win in 2010 shot put and in 2011 has added five feet to his current mark of 62-7.75 (19.09m), which he set in winning the Texas Relays. The throw is seven feet better than the second-best mark in the league and ranks fourth in the country.
O'Brien posted her best shot put of 54-1.75 (16.50m) at the Penn Relays where she finished second and won the discus title (173-3, 52.82m) at the prestigious Philadelphia meet. O'Brien is one of two women to hold the MAC's top mark in two separate events (Kent State's Diana Dumitrescu leads the league in the triple jump and heptathlon). O'Brien's shot put and discus throws are four feet ahead of the second-best marks in the league.
Also ranking near the top of the league in women's throwing events are Shante' White and Erin Miller while Matt Gac and Evan Palmer rank high in the men's events. White is second in the women's hammer throw behind Kent State's Melissa Kurzdorfer as she improved her mark to 195-4 (59.54m) when she won the competition at Penn State's Jim Thorpe Open last weekend. Miller ranks seventh in the hammer at 172-9 (52.65m). Gac, an NCAA National Championships participant in the hammer and discus in 2010, ranks second in the discus (176-11, 53.92m) and fourth in the hammer (195-11, 59.72m) as he moved up following his hammer victory at the Jim Thorpe meet. Palmer, who joined the Bulls after his freshman season at UMBC, is sixth in the hammer (190-9, 58.14m) and seventh in the discus (167-11, 51.18m).
A pair of UB men's jumpers rank third in the MAC as the league championships approach. Chris Davis stands third behind a pair of Akron athletes in the men's long jump at 24-5.75 (7.46m), which he set at last week's Jim Thorpe Open. Douglas Hannon is third in the men's triple jump at 47-1.50 (14.36m).
On the track, men's senior sprinter Brian Smith is the league's fastest athlete in the 200-meters this year, setting the MAC's fastest time of 21.11 as he won the Cornell Upstate Challenge. The time was two-hundedths of a second off Smith's UB record, which he set in the finals at last season's MAC Championships when Smith was the runner-up. In the 100-meters, Smith is second in the league behind defending league champion Clint Allen of Eastern Michigan. Smith turned in a 10.68 clocking at the Cornell meet. Jamiee McClary, UB's record holder in the women's 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes is UB's top sprinter. McClary broke the 100-meter mark in April and ranks third in the league in the 200-meters following her 24.28 clocking to win the Cornell Upstate Challenge.
UB's hurdlers are also near the top of the league bests in both the sprint and distance races. UB's men's trio of Andrew Omoregie (14.24), Austin Archibald (14.58) and Jamal Norward (14.63) rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively in the 110-meter hurdles while Brooklynn Ventura (14.02) is third in the women's 100-meter hurdles. Donna Jeanty set the UB school record of 59.70 in the women's 400-meter hurdles at last month's Cornell Upstate Challenge. In the 400-meter hurdles, Anna Holmes (1:00.37) and Will Cole (52.78) are fourth in the league standings.
The Bulls are expected to have a pair of runners vying for points in the men's 800-meters. Shaun Brummert holds the league's third-best time of 1:51.07 while Ryan Zillmann is eighth at 1:53.24. Both runners set their top marks this season at last week's meet at Penn State.
Several distance runners could reach the awards podium this weekend. The Bulls sport five of the top nine spots in the men's 3,000-meters as all five turned in their top times at Toledo's Collegiate Challenge as UB faced MAC competition for the first time during the outdoor season in early April. John Inzina ranks second in the league at 8:33.74, three seconds off the top spot. Also in the top nine for the Bulls are Steve Houghmaster (fifth, 8:38.62), Dylan Conway (sixth, 8:38.83), Ryan Bloom (eighth, 8:40.09) and Jacob Hagen (ninth, 8:44.99). Houghmaster also ranks fifth in the 5,000-meters at 14:43.71, the fastest time by a UB freshman in the event. Bloom holds the second spot in the men's steeplechase at 9:04.60 set at Princeton's Larry Ellis Invitational last month and four seconds off the league pace. Ellen Muster is among the women's leaders in a pair of distance events. She is third in the 3,000-meters at 10:10.62 and 10th in the steeplechase at 11:03.40.
In the relay races, both of UB's women's relay squads set new school records during the 2011 season. The 4x100-meter foursome of McClary, Ventura, Crystal Graham and Bridgette Kendricks ran 46.53 at last week's Jim Thorpe meet while the 4x400-meter team of McClary, Jeanty, Graham and Asia Henry set the UB mark of 3:42.98 at Cornell's Upstate Challenge.
Women's head coach Vicki Mitchell is confident of the Bulls' chances at this year's meet. "I expect to have very strong performances in the throwing events as well as in the hurdle events," she said. "Our women's 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relays are both coming off of very impressive school records and are primed to be ready to compete against Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan, who consistently dominate the conference. While we have suffered several setbacks with key injuries, I feel our young athletes are ready to make their presence known on the field and track."
While competing at home last season helped the Bulls to their best finishes, Mitchell feels that the teams are set. "Last year we had the home field advantage," she said. "This year at NIU, the home support will be extremely limited, but I know our teams are ready to be in full support to create the intense and committed performances that we need to continue moving up."
Competition is slated to begin at 11:00 am (Eastern Time) on Thursday with Friday and Saturday's action set to start at noon.