Excitement brews within the Florida A&M men and women’s track teams this year. Feeling more comfortable with outside weather creates confidence for the upcoming outdoor meets, despite a disappointing finish to the indoor season.
The Rattlers concluded this year’s indoor season at the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championships at the Prince George Sports Complex and Learning Center in Landover, Md. The men’s team tied for 7th with Morgan State University, and the women finished 11th.
Carl McKenzie, a 22-year-old senior from Atlanta won his first MEAC medal, finishing third in the 60-meter hurdles.
“I felt an extreme sense of jubilation seeing all my hard work from four years payoff after not being able to medal in my previous years.” McKenzie said.
McKenzie was also given all MEAC honors in the 60-meter hurdles, while teammate Leon Hunt was awarded honors for his performance in the long jump.
Latoya Wright, a 21-year-old junior from Saint Catherine, Jamaica by way of Palm Beach, is a member of a women’s team who is ready to forget about the indoor season as quickly as possible.
“I didn’t enjoy my experience in Maryland because I didn’t win and I’m a winner,” Wright said.
Neither finish was satisfying for the players or for head coach Darlene Moore, who has taken over the coaching duties for both teams.
“Taking over both programs in January created some transitional issues and left voids that we dealt with over the course of this season,” Moore said.
Issues such as unexpected transfers, academic ineligibility, and students choosing not to run were the main dilemmas presented to coach Moore. The problems crippled the women’s team more, who retuned only five athletes from last year’s team.
“Unfortunately, I was unable to recruit, which left the women’s program in a rebuilding mode,” Moore said.
However, expectations still run high for the men’s team, who coach Moore expect to break into the top five in the MEAC during the outdoor season after being only three points out during the indoor championships.
“I finished fifth last year in the outdoor championships, but placing in the indoor championships gives me more confidence to place higher this year,” McKenzie said.
The women’s team should see more success due to their familiarity with outdoor running.
“Having finished 11th at an indoor meet means there is only one way for us to go which is up,” Moore said.
Wright plans to assist the team’s improvement by helping the team stay focused. After finishing third in the 400-meter hurdles last year, Wright plans to help the team with their goal of gaining more points by winning the event this year.
The lack of experience on the teams has hindered the progress of both programs.
Switching into their comfort zone of outdoor running will provide valuable training for a program decimated by inexperience.
A small core of returning athletes and a new head coach plan to rectify the situation by making strides one meet at a time.