By Ida Ynner Lagerqvist
Sports & Photo Editor
With the East Coast Conference Championships coming up, the men’s and women’s indoor track teams gathered for a workout at the Pratt Recreation Center indoor track. With a smaller roster than last year and a lot of dedication, the athletes expect to perform at their best.
Last year, the women’s team came in third place and the men’s team in fourth place. A lot has changed since then. The announcement of the merger between the Post and Brooklyn athletic teams led to some athletes deciding not to run this year. The roster has shrunken, mainly on the men’s team.
“On the men’s side, we have lost kids. We got a couple of kids injured, some transferred and some just didn’t came back from last year,” Kevin Buckley, head coach for both teams, said. Last year they had 25 active athletes, this year they have 11 to 12 players that are active.
The turbulence has been a challenge for the athletes, but Buckley is pleasantly surprised with how his athletes have handled the situation. “The kids who are here, they really hung in,” he said. Buckley is particularly delighted with the women’s team.
“The women’s team gets a grade of A for keeping their focus, practicing, going through everything and succeeding when the vast majority won’t be running next year,” he said. next year, the indoor track teams will be located at the Brooklyn campus, which creates problems for Post athletes.
Not all majors are offered at both campuses, which prohibits a move for athletes who want to stay in their major. Buckley also said there is
a very established Division I team at Brooklyn and a majority of his athletes will not be offered a spot on that team.
Despite the changes, Buckley has high hopes for the upcoming championship and expects a lot of personal records. “Everyone should have their best times,” he said. He also hopes to get some of his runners qualified for the IC4A/ ECAC Championships in March, where the runners will compete against a majority of Division I runners. “We are looking to be as good as we can. Even though we are a little bit out of business, we will keep on going and keep on trying,” Buckley said.
One of the strongest athletes who will compete at the ECC Championships is sophomore marketing major Destyn Harding. Buckley described him as “the hardest worker you can possibly want.” He runs the 60-meter dash, 200-meter dash and the 4×400- meter relay. At last year’s ECC, Harding finished second in the 60-meter dash and fifth in the 200-meter dash. This year he has his mind set on the gold.
“I expect to win the 60 and to be top five in the 200,” Harding said. Buckley also has high hopes on Harding, especially in the 60-meter dash.
“He is a definite threat,” he said. Harding recently qualified for the IC4A Championships.
Another potential scorer is senior political science major Kaitie Schillaci. “She is back in form again,” Buckley said. “She was a bit out of form but she is running very well now,” Buckley said.
Schillaci runs both indoor and outdoor track and needed some time to adjust to the faster indoor tracks. “Getting indoors is always a little bit harder because you are coming from cross country where it’s all outside and long distance,” Schillaci said. “It’s a transition and you got to wake your legs up.” Though she hadn’t performed as well as she hoped in the beginning of the season, Schillaci said she is stronger now and more confident. Her goal is to beat her personal record. “I ran at 3:09 last weekend and that is my personal record so if I can run at 3:05 or 3:06 maybe that would be nice,” she said.
Junior Alexandria Okon is another runner who is expected to perform well. “She is the ECC pre-season athlete of the year, the favorite in the 500-meter, where she is the defending league champion,” Buckley said. “And [Okon is] the meet record holder, and she is the favorite in the 800-meter, where she has the best time of the year,” Buckley said. What distance she will be running at the ECC Championships is not decided. “She can’t run both. They are too close together,” Buckley said. Okon was not present during practice on Feb. 8 due to a visit to Brooklyn, where she most likely will be running next year.
Both the men’s and the women’s team have many other runners Buckley sees as potential scorers. He mentioned, among others, Margaret McKeever, who will compete in the 1000-meter dash, Nicolette Agostinacchio and Nataly Ramirez in the 500-or 400-meter dash.
This ECC Championship will be Buckley’s last one as head coach for the Post track teams due to the merger. When the announcement reached him, he decided to not be a part of it. The head coach for Brooklyn team, Simon Hodnett, will be responsible for the track teams next year.
In his 45 years as a coach, Buckley has spent the last three as head coach. “I have enjoyed my time here but now it’s time to stay home and read a book all day or find something else. We will see what happens but it was a good run,” he said.
The East Coast Championship will take place on Saturday, Feb. 16 at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island.