Webb, Wells and Wise: Track and Field Preps for ACC Championship

By Ted Zhang / Staff Writer

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During the last week of February, the Pitt track and field team is just beginning a crucial period of competition.

Top athletes from the ACC, including 30 Pitt athletes, will compete in the ACC Indoor Track and Field Championship at Boston College this week, Feb. 25 to 27. Those who place in the Championship will compete nationally in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 11.

Pitt head coach Alonzo Webb said his athletes have been preparing for this week all season, laying the groundwork for a strong finish.

“They have been working hard up to this point, excited about the challenge that lies ahead of them,” Webb said.

Webb has a history of making big things happen for Pitt.

In his first two years in the ACC, he has produced five All-Americans and a successful 4×400 team that in 2012 had one of the fastest times in the world with 3:05.35. 

Webb has high expectations for his athletes and said while he pushes them harder with every step in the process, as the competition looms closer, he’s letting the season’s work settle in.

“Our mantra here is to get a little bit better everyday. We take it day by day, week by week,” Webb said. “It’s going to be a low-key week as we head into the [Championship]. Basically, what I say is the hay is in the barn already and there is really no more work you can put in other than mentally.”

Webb looks to the leadership in each competing group to bolster the team’s success as a whole.

He’s found one such leader in thrower Andrew Wells, a recent graduate transfer in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. Finishing up his time at Pitt, Webb is looking to Wells to make a strong impression in the upcoming meet.

“[He’s a] great young man who works extremely hard and is a great example of the team,” Webb said. “More than just that, he is a great person and a team leader. He goes and works hard and the throwers group feeds off of that.”

Wells’ primary events have been the weight throw, discus and hammer throw, but since the last two events take place outdoors, Wells will only compete in the weight throw this week.

Wells is coming off of a strong showing at the SPIRE Invitationals in Ohio on Feb. 12, where he notched a personal best of 21.87 meters — bettering his previous record by 13 centimeters. Currently nationally ranked No. 7 in the weight throw, Wells doesn’t plan on halting his rise.

“I want to make it to nationals and be an All-American,” Wells said, “and if I can hit my goal of 22 meters, I think that will let me accomplish what I want.”

Sophomore sprinter and health service management major Alyssa Wise has burst onto the track scene at Pitt, making a name for herself from the beginning of the season.

A Pennsylvania native, Wise started off the season strong at the opening tournament at Penn State, where she qualified in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.74 and finished sixth overall.

“[Alyssa’s] the type to lead by example. She’s a free spirit, works hard and is a very funny person,” Webb said. “That’s what you want around here, someone that is relaxed, but can turn it on when it’s time to turn it on.”

In her most recent showing at the SPIRE Invitational Feb. 12 and 13, Wise finished eighth overall, whittling her time down from the beginning of the season to 7.62. She finished fifth in the finals, adding on just one hundredth of a second for a time of 7.63.

Wise has had some minor setbacks because of injury this year, but in the last invitational, she ran a personal best in the 200-meter, clocking in at 24.44.

“[This week], I want to make it to the finals in the 60-meter and the 200-meter,” Wise said, “[and] do my best to help score points for the team.”

Despite track and field’s reputation for being an individualist sport, Webb said the success of each athlete propels the whole team forward.

“What I tell [my athletes] is that we want to do three things. Number one is to qualify for the ACC Championship, the group here have done that,” Webb said. “The next two are to run hard and qualify for the final because if you do that, you score points for the team.”

Pitt has always had a strong presence in the 4×400, the concluding event of a meet. This year’s team, Chris Tate, Joshua McDonald, Desmond Palmer and Donnell Taylor, has met several setbacks this season.

Junior sprinter Brylan Slay has been handling hamstring issues all season. Webb is looking to alternate McDonald, who’s taking Slay’s spot on the 4×400, to dominate this week.

“The three other guys knowing that Josh is gonna replace [Slay], it didn’t bother them because they knew Josh was going to give them 100 percent,” Webb said.

This week, Webb isn’t letting individual setbacks disappoint the team mentally. He said he’s focused on pushing forward.

“We have that next-man-up mentality,” Webb said. “We don’t look at whoever is replacing that person as a disadvantage but more of an opportunity for the individual to excel.”

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