Friday, December 5, 2008

Men's track looks for youth to step up during indoor season

Issue date: 12/5/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Coach Jim Knapp has a very young indoor team as he enters his 24th season at the helm of the CMU men's track program.

However, Knapp expects his team to finish in the at the top of the MAC this year despite 34 of his 45 athletes are freshmen or sophomores.

"Our strength is in our younger people," Knapp said. "They're not quite as young as they were (last year)."

Last spring's outdoor team placed fifth at the Mid-American Conference championships, which Knapp believes will bode well for the upcoming indoor season.

"We responded very well towards the end of the outdoor season and that's usually good," Knapp said.

With all of the team's youth, the Chippewas bring back two near-Olympians in fifth-year senior and Abraham Mach and junior Greg Pilling.

Mach is a fifth-year senior attending graduate school and won the past three 800-meter MAC Championships.

"I'm so excited," Mach said. "Now I know what it takes to win and we definitely have a shot."

Pilling sat out last season to train for last year's Canadian Olympic Trials in Windsor, Ontario, where he finished with a bronze medal in the discus with a throw of 177 feet, 1 inch. He also finished ninth in the hammer throw.

But Knapp believes the younger athletes must step up if the team is going to have success.

"We know if we're going to do anything as a team, we're going to need every person to step up," he said.

Knapp said the team should be strong in the throwing events, but is looking for someone to step up in the long jump and triple jump events.

Returning in the jumping events is Oz Lifshitz, a sophomore from Rishon Lezion, Israel, who earned All-MAC honors last year as a freshman.

The team also is looking to avoid injuries as the season progresses.

"Last year we had a lot of injuries," said senior distance runner Sean Anthony. "But we have a lot more depth this year. And that will help us in the MAC Championship meet."

The Chippewas start training when school begins and run until June.

"We're as strong and flexible as possible," Knapp said.

The team opens its season today in East Lansing for the Michigan State Open. According to Knapp, no distance runners will go to rest from the cross country season, and the team will treat it like a scrimmage.

"We're just anxious to get going," he said.

The team's schedule continues on Jan. 9, when the team hosts the Chippewa Open.

The team also will host The Jack Skoog Open on Feb. 20 and Eastern Michigan on April 4 during the outdoor season

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