BALTIMORE – After a record-setting 2012-13 indoor and outdoor campaign in which the Retrievers received three invitations to the NCAA Championships, the UMBC track and field teams kick of their new season and look to build on that success starting this weekend at the Bison Opener at Bucknell.
Both NCAA qualifiers, junior Mercedes Jackson (Huntingtown, Md./Huntingtown) and sophomore Vincent Rentzsch (Oranienburg, Germany), return for head coach David Bobb who is back at the helm of his alma mater for the 16th year. Bobb, a national meet qualifier and school-record holder himself, hopes previous successes push his team even further this time around.
"We really want to piggy-back off of the success that our team had last year, in addition to that of the cross country teams this past fall," Bobb said. "We want to challenge for a conference championship and I think we have the pieces to do so.
"Last year, we were able to get two athletes to the NCAA meets and we would like to have a few more join them this year."
On the women's side, Jackson has set new standards at UMBC since first competing for the Black and Gold at the 2011 Bison Opener in which she broke the school record in the 60m dash with a time of 7.52. Since her first-ever collegiate meet, Jackson lowered her top time down to 7.34 at last season's Penn State National Invitational and became just the fourth Retriever to ever advance to the NCAA meet where she garnered a spot on the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-America list.
In addition to her individual accolades, which also included the 2013 America East Most Outstanding Female Track Athlete award, Jackson helped lead the Retriever women record their best-ever finish at the conference indoor meet, claiming second-place. As a sophomore, Jackson won gold in the 60m and 200m dash events, tying with now-graduated teammate Amanda Deller and two other athletes for 20 points gained.
Jackson has plenty of help as senior Kirsten Jones (Brentwood, Tenn./M.L.K. Magnet), and juniors Paulette Fogle (Washington, D.C./Bishop McNamara) and Sarah Daly (Lake Orion, Mich./Lake Orion), all school record holders, also return for coach Bobb. Jones broke the school mark for the 400m dash both indoors (55.80) and outdoors (55.63), while also anchoring the 4x400 relay team to program history-breaking times during both seasons.
Fogle, meanwhile, reset the school record while winning the 500m event (1:13.69) at the America East Indoor Championships. She then claimed the record in the 400m hurdles during the outdoor season and proceeded to lower it three more times, leaving it at 1:00.83 during a bronze medal-winning run at the conference outdoor meet. She also contributed to the relay squads, helping the 4x400 team win a silver medal.
Daly contributed to the record-breaking season by snapping the school mark in the indoor 800m (2:12.65) and aiding the distance medley relay team set a new program-best time of 12:04.24. Outside, Daly jumped up to fifth all-time for the Retrievers in the 800m event (2:14.90).
"These athletes add some great depth for us," said coach Bobb. "We need them and others to perform well because in order to win a conference championship we need to score points across the board."
UMBC also welcomes back a strong contingent of distance runners led by senior Cody Mezebish (Westminster, Md./South Carroll). During the cross country season, Mezebish led the UMBC squad across the line in each of the last four competitions of the season and looks to parlay her success to the track. Last season she led off for the distance medley team which set a new school record of 12:04.24 at the ECAC Championships and moved to third all-time in UMBC history in the 800m with a time of 2:14.69. During the outdoor season, Mezebish placed fourth in the 800m at the America East meet with a career-best time of 2:11.90.
Junior Julie Gessler (Ellicott City, Md./Institute of Notre Dame) and sophomore Nicole Dawson (Jessup, Md./Hammond) also look to contribute after successful cross country seasons. Dawson paced the Retrievers twice and scored in all six meets while also excelling in the classroom to earn a spot on the America East All-Academic Team.
In the throws, the Retrievers look to replace Deller, an eight-time conference shot put champion, with a host of capable athletes. Senior Emma Mayne (Mt. Airy, Md./Linganore) and sophomores Nneoma Edokobi (Rockville, Md./Richard Montgomery) and Jennifer Nelson (Plainfield, Conn./Plainfield) each set career-bests last season, earning a spot among the top-ten in school history in the various events. Edokobi won a bronze medal in the shot put at the indoor meet while Mayne placed fifth in the event indoors and outdoors and Nelson finished as high as sixth in the weight throw.
For the Retriever men, Rentzsch and senior Dennison Long (Greenbelt, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt/FIU) both return for UMBC after breaking onto the scene last year, their first for the Retrievers. After placing third in the heptathlon at the America East Indoor Championships, Rentzsch made his mark immediately outside, breaking the UMBC school record in the javelin at his first meet, the Florida State Relays. The German international went on the snap his own record five more times, including his toss of 70.88m (232'6") to book a spot at the NCAA Championships at Oregon. Along the way, Renztsch captured the conference title in the event, as well as winning a gold medal in the decathlon.
"What Vincent and Mercedes did shows our athletes that the possibilities are out there if they're willing to put in the time and effort," said coach Bobb.
On the track, Long flew past the competition en route to being named the America East Most Outstanding Male Track Performer at both the indoor and outdoor meets. After winning the 60m and 200m dash events at the indoor championships in Boston, Long captured the 100m and 200 dash competitions, and anchored the 4x100 relay team to a gold medal, as UMBC earned a second-place finish, its best-ever, at the outdoor meet at Binghamton. This year, he will compete for the Retrievers during the outdoor season.
After returning from injury to capture a gold medal in the 60m indoor hurdles and 110m outdoor hurdles, senior Trae Proctor (Brandywine, Md./Thomas Stone) looks to add to his medal haul in his final campaign. Proctor also helped the Retrievers win the 4x100 relay at the conference outdoor championships and will help lead UMBC during the outdoor campaign again.
In the mid-distance events, senior Andrew Smith (Chadds Ford, Pa./Garnet Valley) will once again lead the Retrievers after earning his first career conference gold medal last year in the 800m. Smith, a 2013 All-Conference cross country selection, also anchored the 4x800 relay team to a conference title last season. Sophomore Andrew Keresztes (Port Jefferson, N.Y./Port Jefferson) gives UMBC depth at the top, having claimed the 800m conference title at the outdoor championships last season.
Sophomore Hassan Omar (Frederick, Md./Thomas Johnson) paced the Retrievers nearly all season as they won their first America East Cross Country Championship since 2005. An All-Conference and USTFCCCA All-Mid-Atlantic Region selection, Omar broke the UMBC school record at the 8k and 10k distances during the fall season. As a freshman, he captured the 10,000m run title at the outdoor conference championships and also won the event at the Duke Invitational.
Senior Brandan McGee (Hiram, Ohio/Crestwood) and sophomore Austin Hayslett (Mt. Airy, Md./Urbana) will aid the Retriever distance squad after both scoring at the conference championships and the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional at Lehigh.
"The success of the cross country teams this fall shows that our program is building a positive environment which can be carried over in the classroom and on the track," coach Bobb said.
Senior Shioma Obemeata (New Rochelle, N.Y./Iona Prep) leads the jumps and vaults crew after earning his first conference gold medal last year in the triple jump, but will only compete during the outdoor season. Obemeata bested the field with a career-best leap of 15.01m (49'3.00") to move to second in UMBC history. Classmate Mo Drammeh (Frederick, Md./Thomas Johnson) also returns, seeking his first conference title after finishing fourth indoors and third outdoors in the high jump.
Senior Yao Adantor (Germantown, Md./Reservoir/Morgan St./Maryland) and junior Thor Serafenas (Olney, Md./Good Counsel/Clemson) both set school records a year ago and hope to push the Retriever throwers even further this time around. Adantor claimed the school record for the indoor (16.50m; 54'1.75") and outdoor (16.60m; 54'5.50") shot put events as a junior, and won a silver medal in the event at both conference meets. He will start competition during the outdoor season in late March. Serafenas, meanwhile, set a new program standard in the hammer throw (57.26m; 187'10") and won the league title in the discus.
Following the Bison Opener, UMBC has the remainder of the 2013 calendar year off before starting 2014 at the Penn State Relays on Jan. 11.