While most Blue Devils will head to Blacksburg, Va. for the Virginia Tech Elite Meet this weekend, three Blue Devils—Brian Atkinson, Juliet Bottorff and James Kostelnik—will travel with associate head coach Kevin Jermyn to Seattle, Wash. to take on high-level competition at the Husky Classic.
The three athletes who are traveling to the Washington meet were chosen for a specific purpose—qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Championships. This is a difficult task, not just because of the level of determination and skill needed to become an NCAA Championship level athlete, but also because qualifying for the NCAAs means running one of the top-16 times in the nation for an event, something that cannot be determined until all of the times are in just before the NCAA Indoor meet.
“Historically [the Husky Classic] is one of the best distance meets of the indoor season,” Jermyn said. “The combination of the competition and the faster indoor track is the main attraction. We brought out the group that we thought was most ready to try to contend for NCAA Indoor qualifying at this point in the year.”
Bottorff and Atkinson will both be taking on the 5km race at the Classic, while Kostelnik will try his luck in the 3km race.
For Bottorff, this meet is not only a potential chance to qualify for the NCAA Indoor meet, but also her season debut in this event, not to mention her first time running the 5km race on the indoor track since her sophomore year. Despite having to deal with the pressure of her first race in a long time on top of the knowledge that she will face fierce competition this weekend, Bottorff says she is looking forward to the challenge and prefers to race against a strong field rather than lead the pack.
“I haven’t raced track since my sophomore year and training is definitely going better than it was [then],” Bottorff said. “I absolutely prefer meets [with strong competition]. The competition is amazing out there, and it’s humbling to be able to run with them. I [want] to see how I fare against some of the best in the country and get good experience and hopefully get a really good time out of it.”
As she and her two teammates reach for NCAA qualifying times at the Classic, the rest of the Blue Devils will look to improve on their personal performances in Blacksburg. For several, including Michal Filipczak, Cydney Ross and Elizabeth Kerpon, new school records may also be a possibility.
The multi-event athletes are planning on using the Blacksburg meet to work not on their overall point scores but rather on their technique. Sophomore Ian Rock, who associate head coach Shawn Wilbourn had previously named as someone who is capable of making great contributions to this season’s team, recorded a disappointing performance at the Armory meet this past weekend due to a slight hamstring injury and is hoping to be able to step up during Friday and Saturday competition.
“I had to start out slow because I had to learn a lot of events since I’m doing the multi and I just did the pole vault in high school,” Rock said. “This year, [Coach Wilbourn and I] have looked at the competition and think it’s possible to win ACCs, so that’s the goal so far. Armory was a disappointment, but I’m feeling better. We’re ready to go this week, and I’m excited. Practice has been going well this week too, so it should be good.”
Since success in the multi-event competitions usually comes with perfecting technique, the top spots in these competitions are usually filled by older athletes. Despite this, Rock and his teammates are hoping that by practicing continuously and trying to maintain technique in meets such as these, they will be able to reach that level of success early on. As an ultimate goal, Rock has his sights set on qualifying for the NCAA Indoor meet.
Although their end goals may be different, both the athletes who will compete at the Husky Classic and those who will travel to the Virginia Tech Elite meet, are approaching the competition the same way.
“[We’re] going all-out, full competition mode,” Rock said. “We’re seeing what we can do.”