With second-place finishes at the Indoor and Outdoor ODAC Championships last season, the Washington and Lee men’s track & field team posted the best season for a W&L team in nearly 20 years. What the Generals can do for an encore remains to be seen.
First-year Head Coach Brandon Uhl likes the makeup and talent of his team as it prepares to open the 2011-12 season. For Uhl, the season will be his first at the helm of the men’s team after serving as an assistant at W&L since 2008.
“We have the potential to do quite well. Obviously we need to stay healthy as our depth is not quite where we would like it, but the talent at the top is there,” Uhl noted. “We have a good team dynamic and a committed group of guys.”
A diverse mix of experienced and talented upperclassmen, combined with a dynamic group of underclassmen has coach Uhl excited about the possibilities of the upcoming season.
Headlining the returnees is senior captain Tyler Grant, whose leadership, among other things, will prove invaluable to the Generals. The school record holder in the decathlon (5,798 pts.) will give up the event to focus his efforts on the hurdles, the 4x400m relay, of which he is a member of the indoor school record team, and pick up the 800m.
“Tyler brings a lot to the table and he will look to concentrate on scoring well in more individual events this year,” Uhl explained.
Joining Grant as a captain and someone expected to set an example for others to follow is senior Matt Gossett, who has been a key member of the Generals mid-distance contingent for several years. Gossett finished third in the 1,500m (3:59.75) at last year’s outdoor conference championship meet and third in the mile (4:24.88) at the indoor meet.
“We will look for Matt to try and repeat his success from the past,” said Uhl. “He has shown that he is capable of doing well and we will seek that again this year.”
The last captain is junior Steven Colliau. A sprinter, who was hampered by injury much of last season, Colliau did manage to help the indoor 4x400m relay team set a new school standard with a mark of 3:21.81 last season.
“A healthy Steve has a lot of talent and will be able to help us in a variety of sprints this season,” Uhl said.
Mills is the school record holder in the javelin with a mark of 61.03m and was an NCAA qualifier in the event a season ago, though an injury prevented him from competing at the meet. Warneford-Thomson is an experienced runner who returns to the track team after missing last season to study abroad.
Joining the upperclassmen is a group of sophomores that burst onto the scene a year ago. Headlining the sophomore class is Zander Tallman, who heads up what is a deep and talented group of sprinters.
Tallman, who is the school-record holder in the indoor 400m (49.96) and a member of the school record holding 4x400m (3:21.81) relay team, made his presence known to the ODAC by capturing the 200m (23.02), 400m (50.61) and running on the winning 4x400m relay (3:25.55) at the Indoor ODAC Championships en route to ODAC Athlete of the Meet and Rookie of the Year honors. Tallman followed up his sensational indoor performance by defending his 400m title outdoors (49.27) and helping the 4x400m relay team to a second-place finish (3:20.98).
“Obviously Zander had a great first year and will be counted on to score well again for us,” Uhl said.
Joining Tallman in the sophomore class is Dylan Myers, who joined Tallman on the record-setting 4x400m relay and earned a total of five All-ODAC citations as a first-year.
“He can do a lot of things really well,” Uhl said of Myers. “He is so good in so many things that it does a lot for our team in terms of where we can put kids.”
Kane Thomas also returns for his second season after setting the school’s indoor 800m record (1:57.46) and capturing the event at the indoor conference meet and finishing third at the outdoor meet. Additionally, Thomas saw some time on the 4x400m relay team, including the conference champion indoor team.
The depth of the sophomore class is bolstered by Cole Glasgow, Jonathan Sells, David Fishman and Kevin Sullivan among others.
Sullivan was nipping at Mills’ heels in the javelin much of last season and at the outdoor conference meet, Sullivan’s second-place throw of 54.04m was just 2.26m behind Mills’ winning throw.
“Sully (Sullivan) could out-throw Dylan in the javelin this year,” Uhl remarked. “He gives us a really nice 1-2 punch in the jav.”
Glasgow was a two-time All-ODAC honoree as a first-year competing in the 55m indoors and the 100m outdoors. Jonathan Sells added a third-place finish in the long jump (6.29m) at the indoor meet and David Fishman added scoring finishes in the pole vault at both the indoor and outdoor meets.
Of Sells, Uhl noted “…he is still learning how to jump and he finished third indoors. He has a lot of potential and is still developing.”
Contributing to the talent and the depth of his roster is a group of rookies with the ability to step in and contribute right away. Some of the newcomers that Uhl mentioned as contributors include Eddie Barnes, Mike Agrippina, Aaron Jeong, Christian Croft and Arthur Stier among others.
Uhl expects both Barnes and Agrippina to contribute in the throwing events by the end of the season. Barnes, a football player, is coming off surgery on his non-throwing arm and will look to contribute more in the outdoor season. Uhl expects Agrippina to make his mark in the discus in the outdoor season.
“The depth in the throws that they could provide would be much-needed,” Uhl said. “That’s an area where (defending champion) Lynchburg hurt us, and the addition of those two can help us.”
Croft and Jeong are expected to contribute to the sprint/hurdle groups right away, and Croft in the jumps as well.
“It’s always hard to tell how first-years will adjust to the college atmosphere, but the potential is certainly there,” Uhl noted.
Despite lacking ideal depth, Uhl likes the chances of his team in 2011-12. Considering nearly every significant contributor from last year’s second-place teams have returned more experienced, and with a class of talented rookies at his disposal, the Generals’ prospects have not looked brighter in some time.
W&L kicks off the season at the two-day Liberty Kickoff on Friday beginning at 2:00 pm.