Sacramento State track and field started the outdoor season this past Saturday, but did so with only half the roster.
Head coach Kathleen Raske has decided to take a long-term approach this year. Instead of loading up to make a run for more titles, she has decided to redshirt 30 athletes in an effort to strengthen the team.
“We’re calling this a rebuilding year and a year to develop,” Raske said. “We’re strategically planning on redshirting our athletes.”
Some notable redshirts include junior shot put champion Zach Coniglio and junior sprinter Paul Lyons. Although they will not be competing for the team this season, they will compete unattached and are currently training for the USA Outdoor Championships, hosted by Sac State, with help of the coaching staff.
Sophomore distance runner Morgan Dampier and senior thrower Erinn Jones are the most notable women’s redshirts. Like a majority of the team, they are being held out of competition due to the 6,910 foot elevation in Flagstaff, Ariz., the site of this year’s Big Sky Outdoor Conference Championship.
“We’re not going to compete with an entire roster in a year where we are competing for a title at such a high altitude,” Raske said. “Certain years we would love to, but this is not one of them.”
The men’s and women’s teams have never won a conference title in Arizona. The women have won the last six titles, but none of them in elevations higher than 4,820 feet. The men won their lone title in 2011 at Hornet Stadium, where the elevation is just 30 feet.
“The hardest place to compete in the Big Sky is Flagstaff, so that’s a significant difference from an Idaho State or Eastern Washington,” Raske said. “It’s a definite disadvantage.”
The team may not be primarily focused on adding trophies to their collection, but the competitive vibe can still be felt around the Hornets’ practice facility.
“One thing I’ve been vying for is to break the school record,” said senior javelin thrower Emily Kersting. “It’s go big or go home since it’s my last year.”
Junior sprinter Caprice Powell is looking to capitalize on her opportunity to compete after dealing with an injury-riddled 2013 outdoor season.
“I’m hoping to make it to the Big Sky Conference Championships,” Powell said. “I’ve been working really hard to get it together and stay competitive.”
The Hornets’ first home meet is the Hornet Invite on Saturday. The team will take a two week break before returning to Hornet Stadium April 10-11 for the Mondo Multi meet. Their home schedule concludes with the Mondo Mid-Major Challenge the following day, April 12.
Being at home and outdoors has raided the spirits of the team. Both the men and women suffered a down indoor season, failing to bring home a title.
“We faced a lot of obstacles, from injuries to illness, this indoor season,” Raske said. “There’s a big excitement for outdoor track season.”