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Fourteenth, Fowler, and Ferst: Track and Field

We begin where the sports calendar left off - the denizens of the Coach/Dean/Instructor/Letterman/War Hero George C. Griffin track.

I really like this picture from the Georgia Tech Invitational - if you’ve never checked out the Griffin Track, the view in the background, from the BioTech Quad, is excellent.
Georgia Tech Athletics/Danny Karnik

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - This summer, as we did last summer, Yellow Jacket Roundup will be taking a ten week hiatus as the summer sports break splits spring from fall and the academic year begins anew. Pretty much the same premise, expect this year, we have a better, and more alliterative name. We start first with the last team left in action here in Midtown: Track and Field.


When We Last Saw ‘Em:

Georgia Tech track’s season didn’t wrap up until this past weekend, as the team sent three athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships. This weekend was the culminating point of a year’s worth of hard work for Tech’s runners, and it paid off as the Tech women moved from 48th at Indoor NCAAs to 41st at Outdoor NCAAs. This is on the backs of stellar performances from both Jeanine Williams in the 100m hurdles and Bria Matthews in the triple jump. Williams, a senior, finished in fourth, notching her first career first team All-American accolade, moving up nine spots from last year, when she was an Honorable Mention All-American, while Matthews, also a senior, finished in fourteenth, earning herself an Honorable All-American selection, to boot.

Meanwhile, on the men’s side, just Avery Bartlett was selected to represent the Yellow Jackets following the East Preliminaries. Like Matthews, Bartlett, who is also a senior, finished in fourteenth in the 800m, also earning himself a Second Team All-American nod and matching his previous accomplishments at the Outdoor NCAAs.

Tech’s distance runners, especially on the winning side, improved as a group this year, and we’ll talk more about that during the Cross Country retrospective. The men’s field events, also, improved as a group. However, as track is a finicky sport, it’s hard to say how they did as a group. The team may not all go to the same meet. The team might not all run their on-events. They were middle-to-bottom of the pack in the ACC when it was all said and done, yet Jeanine Williams is literally world class. I see this team a lot like I see swimming and diving - which we’ll get to later in the summer - but there’s a lot of good mixed in with the just okay.

They had good races this year. But, unlike women’s cross country or men’s swimming, neither men’s or women’s track and field really ever put it all together like it seemed they could. Lightning never struck all at once. And that left them with some great pieces, and some great athletes, but not a lot of hardware to look back on at the end of the year.

I say all of this not to disparage the excellent accomplishments of Williams, Bartlett, and Matthews, especially Matthews, who bounced back this year in a huge way. They had excellent seasons. But the depth wasn’t quite there to make noise in most invitationals, or in the conference. And without them at the top, who really knows where this team would’ve looked like. Track, as I said, is a volatile and hard-to-read sport. So, until we see a rising tide, it must suffice to celebrate the ships that sail calmly atop the choppiest of waves.

Who’s In:

...uh, no one really knows...
It’s not on RamblinWreck.com, thewhiteandgold.com, or anywhere else I’ve checked.

Sidenote: rest in peace, The White and Gold, the Tech non-revenue sports world got a little smaller on Friday.

Who’s Out:

Men:
Avery Bartlett - Distance
Christian Bowles - Distance
Gabriel DaRosa - Distance
Jag Gangemi - Distance
Lionel Jones - Sprints
Chris Korabik - Distance
Matt McBrien - Distance
Eamon McCoy - Distance
Daniel Pietsch - Sprints
Mitchell Sanders - Distance
Maurice Simpson - Sprints
Nahom Solomon - Distance
Ryan Thomas - Jumps

Women:
Rebecca Dow - Distance
Rebecca Entrekin - Distance
Anna Hightower - Pole Vault
Bria Matthews - Jumps
Alexandra Melehan - Distance
Mary Prouty - Distance
Amy Ruiz - Distance
Dasia Smith - Jumps
Haley Stumvoll - Distance
Lindsey Wheeler - Sprints
Jeanine Williams - Hurdles

Various and Sundry:

  • AI 2020 aims to fully fund all athletic scholarships. This is crucial for track (and swimming and cross country) to compete on even terms with the rest of the ACC and the country.
  • Next year could be rough. They lose their best all-around athletes on each team and their best comeback story of this season.
  • Better facilities play a lot into this sport - most non-revenue athletes put a lot of consideration into the quality of the education, rather than this concept of it being a recruiting detractor for sports like football and basketball. New facilities combined with the excellent opportunities in the classrooms could put the Jackets over the top in these recruits’ minds and make Tech a track contender in the making.

Future Schedule Highlights:

Hasn’t been released yet, but we can safely assume Tech will be headed back to the Penn Relays, arguably the most iconic event in the sport. Additionally, they’ll probably head to Clemson and Vanderbilt, and host two invitationals of their own. How everything else will shake out, let alone what athletes will run what events, is certainly a mystery.

Buy/Sell/Hold:

Sell: Losing the three All-Americans is bad. Not knowing who will replace them is worse. Allow me to quote this team’s previous year in review piece:

But what does the program as a whole look like? Well, top-to-bottom, we don’t really have a ton of depth. Once again, the Jackets sent a handful of athletes...[but] no Georgia Tech relays [to] nationals. In my experience with relays, having good relays means one of two things: either there is a transcendent star that carries the entire team to greatness, or the team has a solid base depth and, as a whole, runs very well. Of course, usually the truth lies in the middle. Since it gets harder and harder to do the former as competition gets stiffer and stiffer, college teams that still retain depth across four athletes tend to have better relays. With just three athletes qualifying for the national meet, there seems to be not an overwhelming amount of either. The Jackets have some good pieces, don’t get me wrong. Any All-American has worked to get one of the premier awards in sport, but they need more to build the base. With how we finished in head-to-head competition with our peers in the region, I’d say that search is still ongoing. Whether it is losing to mid-majors in local events, or generally relying on half a dozen kids to carry the team in the regular season, Georgia Tech track does not yet have the depth to win championships. Some of the difference lies in recruiting. Some lies in funding. And the rest lies in development.

Sound familiar? Subtract the returning All-Americans, and you’ve got where Tech is today. Tech probably won’t drop too far, but they don’t seem to be able to contend for much in Indoor or Outdoor next season.


Upcoming Schedule:

June 10th - Track and Field
June 17th - Men’s Golf
June 24th - Women’s Tennis
July 1st - Men’s Tennis
July 8th - Softball
July 15th - State of the Program
July 22nd - Women’s Basketball
July 29th - Cross Country
August 5th - Swimming and Diving
August 12th - Volleyball


If you have any insight you’d like to share on this, or any other program at Tech, leave a comment below. Be sure to tune in next week for another spring sport retrospective - Golf.