Track & Field |
March 13, 2012
This is part one in a two-part series previewing the 2012 UC Track and Field teams. Check back later this week for part two.
By Shawn Sell
In his 31 years as the head coach of the UC Men's Track and Field team, Bill Schnier has seen a great deal. So when he looks at his 2012 squad and sees the potential for a strong season, it is likely that he knows what he is talking about.
For the coming season, Schnier will turn to a deep and talented senior class, along with a strong group of newcomers as the Bearcats try to return to a top-five ranking in the BIG EAST. While Schnier knows the pieces are in place, he realizes it won't be an easy task.
"Our BIG EAST finishes in the last three years have been fourth, fourth and sixth," he says. "We are really looking to move up and improve on sixth, back up to third or fourth. The question is how are we going to do that? It is going to be difficult. We can accomplish that because we have a lot of senior standouts. That's one way. We also have some good freshmen. I think the combination of those things--senior leadership and the incoming freshmen--are going to provide quite a nice team. I think it will put us in a position to get back in the top-four in the BIG EAST."
The centerpieces of the Bearcats' senior class are reigning All-Americans Eric Finan and Terence Somerville. Finan finished 10th in the nation last season in the 5,000 meters and followed that up with a BIG EAST Championship and All-American honors in cross country last fall. Somerville is one of the top 110 meter hurdlers in the nation and will look to improve upon an eighth place finish at last year's national meet.
"Our strength is we have some standout athletes in each event area," Schnier assess. "We are a senior-dominated team, especially with our standouts. The real strength comes from our two All-Americans, Eric Finan and Terence Somerville."
Four other members of the senior class all have postseason experience on their resumes, including thrower Brian Zimmerman
. After missing a good chunk of last year due to injury, Zimmerman will try to get back to the NCAA Finals after a one year absence. Like Zimmerman, discus thrower Chris Littleton
is also eyeing a return to the postseason after coming up short last year.
Two other veterans, Jake Haseman in the throws and Tommy Marks in the pole vault are also back with their sights set on a return to the NCAA First Round meet. Redshirt sophomore Josh Dangel is another former NCAA First Round qualifier, joining Marks for a very potent 1-2 punch in the pole vault.
While Schnier has high hopes for the more decorated returning athletes, it will take the emergence of some less experienced returnees and the crop of newcomers to round the Bearcats into a complete team. The hurdles group is one area UC has strength as evidenced by last season's shuttle hurdle relay win at the prestigious Drake Relays. Joining Somerville in the stout lineup are senior Mario Cannon, junior Dailyn Moore and freshman Bryan Cain. Schnier points to junior Maurice Norman as another potential top performer in the hurdles as well.
Other returnees that should contribute this season include senior Michael Rutherford (800 meters) and sophomores Kevin Fink (distance) and Dillon Risser (pole vault).
Schnier is also high on his crew of incoming freshmen to make solid contributions this spring as well. Among the new faces that should make a difference are Brian Barney (middle distance), Michael Nwankwo (jumps/sprints), Colt Robinson (pole vault) and Tariq Sanders (jumps).
The Bearcats' quest to return to the upper echelon of the BIG EAST begins on Saturday with the Early Bird Relays, inside Gettler Stadium on UC's campus. Other highlights on the docket include the Oliver Nikoloff Invitational at Gettler Stadium (March 30-31), the All-Ohio Championships at Miami (April 20-21) and the Drake Relays (April 27-28). The 2012 BIG EAST Championship will take place May 4-7 in Tampa, Fla.