Indoor track has the shortest season at East Carolina, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the team is kicking off its slate with a steep challenge, traveling to Chapel Hill Saturday for a meet against North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke.
With only six weeks between that competition and the American Athletic Conference Indoor Championships in Birmingham, the ECU men’s and women’s track and field athletes know that they have a short, intense window of opportunity in which to prove themselves at their particular event.
“I think that is actually helpful, because you get to see what you’re going against,” said senior Mohogany Baker, a thrower who will compete in the weight throw and shot put during the indoor season. “You can work up to it, but if you already have that competition you already know, ‘All right, that’s where I need to be. Not tomorrow, but now.’ So you work harder to get where you need to be.”
For the distance runners who competed in the Pirates’ fall cross country season, the indoor meets are just a change of gear in what is essentially a three-prong season. It was the most successful cross country season since the Pirates joined the AAC, head coach Curt Kraft said. The women climbed from 11th place in the conference last year to 7th, and the men edged up from 7th to 4th.
For the sprinters and field event specialists, though, it’s been a long fall of training and wondering how they will measure up, Kraft said. Last year at the Dick Taylor Carolina Cup both the men and women finished third in the field of regional rivals, taking two individual event titles. Each member of East Carolina’s largest sports team hopes to top that result.
“They’re anxious, we’re anxious,” Kraft said. “You put all of this work in, and now you want to see what kind of benefits you reap. And we’ll find that out this weekend.”
Junior middle distance runner Stefano Migliorati knew that if he let himself step back from his training regimen during the Christmas break he would regret it when he got back to school and prepared for indoor competition. So he instituted a strict training and nutrition schedule, a discipline that was particularly difficult to maintain because of his Italian grandmother.
An international student from Calvisaro, Italy, Migliorati had enough time to go home and enjoy his family over the break, but he said it was tough to resist the rich offerings his grandma kept preparing.
“I spent most of the time training and trying to avoid the Italian food,” he said.
With the UNC meet fast approaching, Migliorati is focused on his goals – to qualify for the NCAA Regionals in the 800 meters. He had never raced indoors before he came to the U.S., so his freshman indoor season represented a major learning curve, but he feels confident and prepared heading into Saturday’s races.
“I’m so ready for it,” Migliorati said. “Next week I’m going to try to break my school record, and then try to keep on going from there.”
Collegiate indoor track meets feature a few distinct differences from outdoor competition besides the most obvious one – no wind, cold or heat to contend with. The track is 200 meters instead of 400, so the shortest race is a 60-meter dash instead of 100. For safety reasons, athletes don’t throw the javelin or the discus indoors, and the weight throw replaces the hammer, since it is lighter.
An indoor meet includes 17 events compared to 21 at an NCAA outdoor competition.
Baker is the owner of one of those individual event titles from the Chapel Hill meet in 2017 – she won the weight throw with a distance of 15.89 meters. She is also seventh all-time among Pirate athletes in the indoor shot put, and she captured the conference title in the discus at the 2017 AAC Outdoor Championships.
Even if she is throwing different objects during the indoor season, Baker is focused on her primary goals – to stay in the top four in her events and advance to the NCAA Regional.
“My goal for indoor is to beat everything that I did last year,” Baker said.
Hakeem Horton, a sophomore sprinter, long jumper and hurdler who specializes in the 200 meters, shares his teammates’ big hopes and is also resolved to help the Pirates earn every possible point to help them make their mark as a team. He knows that the indoor slate presents one challenge after another, he said, but each meet represents the potential for growth.
“I always try to aim really high in life,” said Horton, who placed first in the 200 at last year’s Dick Taylor Carolina Cup. “For indoor, my goal is to get close to my outdoor times and at the conference championship, I aim to either win it or get on the podium. Every time I run, it’s to get better.”