Syracuse Track & Field: The Orange are Going to Nationals!

Jarret Eaton is the 60m Hurdle indoor national champion. He hopes to parley that success to an outdoor national title next week.  (ESPN Images)

Well, at least five of them are.

I’ll admit to being a little bit more than a casual track and field fan.  I’m not one of those track junkies who follows every major meet.  I threw discus with some success in high school.  My senior year I actually competed against one Adam Terry in the 2000 NYSPHAA Track and Field Championship held in Liverpool.  Hell, I even had plans to try to walk on at Syracuse until a back injury cut short my throwing days. 

I say all this not to impress anyone (though I know you’re in awe), but only to make it clear that I’m not just fishing for news on a slow day. Basketball may have been my love when I was young, but discus was what I was good at.  Because of that, I’m the guy who will sit through the whole 5,000m race or watch hour upon hour of Olympic coverage for the chance to glimpse the 10 seconds of discus coverage they show during every Olympic games.  In short, I care about track, and so should you, especially since Syracuse has a shot to take home some hardware.

The big story, of course, is Jarret Eaton.  Eaton won the national indoor championship in the 60m hurdles, and just came away with the Big East title in the 110m event after running a school-record time of 13.44.  To be clear, that’s 110m in under 14 seconds, while leaping over four-foot high barriers.  Eaton has the fifth fastest time in the nation this year and has a real shot to add another national title to his resume.Eaton will be joined at Drake University by four distance runners; Katie Hursey (3,000m steeplechase), Tito Medrano (10,000m), Sarah Pagano (10,000m) and Lauren Penney (5,000m), all of whom run further in one race than I have in my entire life combined.  As is to be expected of national title contestants, the rest of the Orange contingent are among the best in the country.  Medrano will compete in the 10,000m national final for the second consecutive year, Pagano is the Big East women’s 10,000m champion and Penney holds the SU record in the women’s 5,000m (16:09.44).

This is the part where I wax nostalgic about my youth.  I was never much of a basketball player back in the day, but track was where I excelled.  I can’t say I ever won anything of note.  I had the (mis)fortune of being in the same class as a true discus throwing prodigy, so even when I was throwing my best, this guy was always just a little bit better.  By the time I was a senior, he was the only thrower in the section who beat me. 

Always coming in second might seem like a bitter memory, but not so for me.  Having competed in both a team sport in basketball and an individual one in track, the differences became clear.  Though basketball is my passion, as a competitor, track outstripped hoops in this way; accountability.  If I got beat in the discus circle, it was no one’s fault by my own.  There was no, “this guy missed that shot, that guy didn’t rotate in time, he couldn’t keep himself academically eligible”.  I put in my work and reaped the rewards directly. 

The same applies to Eaton and the rest of the Orange on their way to Drake next weekend.  It doesn’t matter if so-and-so was too slow or couldn’t quite clear the bar.  They have a chance to do something special.  It’s good that they’ll have teammates there to cheer them on but, in the end, they have no one to lean on but themselves..

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