Men's Track Set to Open 2011-12 Indoor Season

Contact: Ben Badua

Ben Scheetz '12 won the 800-meter run at last year's NCAA Indoor Championships.

Under the tutelage of 2010-11 USTFCCCA New England Region Coach of the Year Erik Nedeau, the Amherst men’s track and field team enjoyed arguably its best indoor season last year; finishing sixth at the NCAA Championships with a program record 18 points. The squad’s strongest showing since tying for sixth at the 1998 championship meet, the Lord Jeffs surpassed the 2010 campaign’s 17-point tally after also placing fourth at the ECAC Championships and 10th at the Open New England’s.

“We don’t want to be satisfied with what we did last year,” said Nedeau. “This is a new year. We want to build on what we accomplished and capture the momentum that we had last season. We hope to increase the intensity and level of training that we’ve done in the past to be able to step things up and compete at the highest level.”

Headlining Amherst’s group of returnees is senior Ben Scheetz, last season’s USTFCCCA Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. The school’s recordholder in the 400, 500, 600 and 800-meter events, the Lancaster, Pa. native became just the second Lord Jeff to capture a national title, winning the 800 at last year’s championship meet with a time of 1:51.26. An integral part of the team’s success, Scheetz, who garnered Most Outstanding Performer honors, also placed fourth in the 400 while helping the Amherst 4 x 400 relay team to a sixth-place showing.

“I think Ben is capable of accomplishing even bigger things than what he did last year,” said Nedeau. “He learned a lot about stepping things up and taking his running to a new level. I think some of our other student-athletes see his work ethic and it’s been contagious.”

Rejoining Scheetz on the 4 x 400 relay are senior co-captain Andrew Reed and sophomore Matt Melton. Together, Amherst’s 4 x 400 team nearly set the meet record at the ECAC Championships (3:16.95) before clocking in at 3:20.87 at the NCAAs. Losing Tommy Moore ’11 to graduation, the Lord Jeffs will look at several options to compliment Reed, Scheetz and Melton, but should still be one of the squad’s strongest events.

“My hope is that the three of them step things up just a little bit,” said Nedeau. “As the season goes on we’ll need to find a fourth person to complete the team but I think we still have the potential to improve upon last year’s results both in terms of time, qualifying for nationals and bettering our performance [at nationals].”

Looking to factor into Amherst’s traditionally strong distance medley relay team is junior middle distance runner Pat Grimes. Coming off of a strong cross country season this fall, Grimes should play a large role on a Jeffs’ squad that last season set the Division III record with a time of 9:49.11 at Boston University’s Valentine Invitational. Over the last three years, Amherst has placed seventh, fifth and 10th, respectively in the DMR at the NCAA Championships.

“Pat has the ability to qualify for nationals in the mile run,” said Nedeau. “He should also factor pretty strongly in the DMR. While I don’t think we’ll be able to replicate what we did last year in setting a Division III record, I think that he’ll play an integral role in helping us advance to nationals in the event.”

Leading a solid group of distance runners is junior Andrew Erskine, who recently qualified for the 2011 cross country national championships with a sixth-place showing at the New England Regionals. Also looking to make an impact are a trio of standout first-years in KC Fussell, Greg Turissini and Romey Sklar who have enjoyed strong rookie cross country campaigns.

“Andrew had a really good season last year,” said Nedeau. “He just missed nationals in the 10K during the outdoor season. We’ll be looking for him to carry that success over to see how close we can get to the 5K NCAA mark. KC and Greg are both making a nice transition to college and should do well as distance runners, while Romey could be a good mid distance addition.”

With 21 returnees complimenting a talented group of newcomers, Amherst should continue to compete nationally with a strong presence in the middle distance, distance and long sprint events.

“They’ve done a lot of great work in the first two months,” said Nedeau. “They’re in the weight room, getting training and good runs in. They’re in good shape, are excited to start the year and I’m looking forward to seeing some significant improvement from a lot of guys. Whether it’s somebody setting a national record or somebody looking to qualify for nationals for the first time, it’s a matter of looking at the performances we had [last year] and trying to better those significantly.”

Amherst will open its indoor season at the Smith Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 3.