After breaking six school records during the 2016-17 season, the Pitt track and field team enters this season needing to retool after the departure of several key contributors from last year’s team.
The Panthers return five of the seven athletes that made it to the NCAA Outdoor Championships last season. Two of the five athletes returning, senior women’s hammer thrower Andin Fosam and junior long distance runner Gillian Schriever, are expected to be key contributors on the Pitt women’s team again this year.
Fosam had a solid junior year, making it to the NCAA Championships for the first time in her career and breaking the school record for outdoor hammer throw in the process. Although she finished 23rd at the the championships, Fosam had a career year which she will look to build on in her senior season.
Schriever also recorded career performances last year. The cross-country and long-distance runner ran her best 10k in the NCAA Championships, where she finished with a school record time of 33:50.03, 13th place and second-team All-American honors.
Along with Fosam leading the throwers and Schriever leading the long distance runners, the team also returns three of the four sprinters from the women’s 4×400 who made it to the NCAA championships. Returning seniors Quadaisha Newkirk and Morgan Harvey and sophomore Danielle Leaks now have a chance to improve on their 24th place finish in the relay last year.
The biggest loss for the Panthers is going to be hurdler Desmond Palmer, who made it to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in each of his four years at Pitt. Palmer set the school record in the 400m hurdles and in the indoor 600m during his time at Pitt.
He managed to make both finals at the championships and finished fifth in the 400m hurdles and seventh in the 110m hurdles last season. It is unlikely that Pitt will be able to replace him soon, so it will be up to assistant coach Keith Roberts to develop the younger hurdlers on the team.
Pitt will also be looking for breakout performers from more than just the hurdlers this year. Two Panthers primed for strong seasons are sophomores sprinter Jabari Michael-Khensu and long-distance runner Nick Wolk. Last year, Michael-Khensu and Wolk both competed in the ACC Outdoor championships as first years, with Michael-Khensu finishing eighth in the 200m and Wolk finishing 23rd in the 5000m.
Both also competed internationally last summer in the Pan Am Junior Championships in Peru, with Wolk representing the United States and Michael-Khensu representing St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
One unit that won’t be looking for a breakout athlete is the women’s distance medley relay team. The team, which had senior Joslin Sellers and juniors Makenzie Zeh and Miranda Salvo on both indoor and outdoor and senior Morgan Harvey on indoor, broke both the school indoor and outdoor records. With all runners returning except for first year Jordan Bourgeois, who left the team after just one season, expect this group to continue to break records in the event.
One first-year athlete that may garner recognition this year is jumper Greg Lauray. In the Blue-Gold Meet last weekend, he managed to get over 7’ 3/4” in the high jump. He caught the eye of the NCAA Track & Field Twitter account, which posted a video of the jump on Saturday.
The cold weather means that the track team starts its indoor season, which goes from now until the the NCAA Indoor Championships at the beginning of March. The outdoor season begins soon after in March and continues until the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the beginning of June.
The indoor season for the Panthers has started, and they have their final meet of the semester this weekend. They will compete in the Golden Flash Gala at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, Friday, Dec 8, and Saturday, Dec 9.