Friday, January 30, 2009

First scored meet Saturday for men's track

Chippewas travel to Eastern Michigan for weekend tri-meet

Issue date: 1/30/09

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Abraham Mach watched a few of his teammates warm up Wednesday at practice, unsure if he was going to run in today's tri-meet at Eastern Michigan University.

"I wouldn't be a good guy to talk to," Mach said at the time. "I don't even know if I'm running this week."

Head coach Jim Knapp initially said the All-American would not compete in today's scored meet - the only scored event of the men's track regular season - but that was before talking to him.

After the senior eventually convinced him to run, Knapp smiled and said, "See how easy I am?"

Mach and the Chippewas will travel to Ypsilanti for a competition against EMU and the University of Detroit-Mercy, and this time around, they will compete for points.

"There is a buzz," Knapp said about the scored meet. "Everybody is conscious of where they're placing - not that they wouldn't normally be, but it puts things into focus a little bit more.

"There's a barometer there with the score on the board. Sometimes people just don't know what's going on."

The team is coming off of a solid performance at the Red Simmons Invitational, highlighted by junior Marcus Briedinger's first-place finish on the pole vault. He cleared 16 feet, 2 ¾ inches.

Briedinger doesn't take a different approach to a scored event versus a non-scored event.

"It doesn't matter to me," he said. "Just staying mentally focused, that's the only thing that you can do now."

Assistant coach Troy Irvine, who recently competed in pole vault and decathlon at the University of Maine, agrees.

"Basically, we look at meets as preparation for the MAC," Irvine said. "Each meet is a stepping stone where we look to improve one thing versus another."

In terms of numbers, the Chippewas will be facing an uphill battle from the outset. According to Knapp, EMU - which was picked second in the preseason media poll - is one of the largest teams in the country.

"They're a very solid team," he said. "We know them well. A very good, solid team with big numbers. They'll have three guys in every event."

Although the team is resting some regulars, including junior distance runner Riak Mabil, Knapp insists the team needs to stay focused.

"We need to be mentally tougher than we've been, and that comes from focus," he said. "And that's why we're going down there."

Michigan Intercollegiates await women's track team

Issue date: 1/30/09

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

The women's track team will compete at full strength today for its first scoring meet of the season.

The team will travel to Eastern Michigan for the Michigan Intercollegiates, which extends through Saturday. Featuring six of the state's seven Division I schools (Michigan State excluded), the event proves to be one of the toughest on the team's schedule.

"This is definitely a meet that we've been targeting all year," said head coach Karen Lutzke.

The meet includes some tough competition, including the University of Michigan, which is ranked No. 3 nationally. Western Michigan, which took last year's second-place finisher in the indoor MAC Championship, will compete, as well as Eastern Michigan, which Lutzke calls "A quickly improving team."

Oakland University and the University of Detroit-Mercy will also compete.

Lutzke said she will get a better feel for where the team is at after seeing them this weekend as a whole.

"We haven't had a full squad," she said. "Some people have competed one weekend, others have taken a week off here or there, so we don't have a true sense of where our team stands at this point until we've competed in one spot."

This will be the Chippewas first of two regular season scored meets on the year, but junior Erika Schroll says that although the format is different, the goal remains the same.

"Everybody wants to win regardless if it's scored or not," Schroll said. "The competition doesn't change and we need to keep steadily building up to the MAC meet."

Schroll, who set a personal best in the high jump last weekend at the Red Simmons Invitational 5 feet 9 1/4 inches, will be competing in the pentathlon for the first time this season, serving as a test run for the season-ending meet.

Lutzke said this weekend's competition couldn't have come at a better time.

"Right now is the perfect time to have a scored meet," she said. "We're getting a feel for where we're at and things are starting to click together. This is where we need to start moving. After this weekend, there are only four more weeks until the MAC and that's not really much time."

Following the Michigan Intercollegiates, the team will compete in three more meets - one of which is scored - before the Mid-American Championships on Feb. 27-28 at Kent State.

"Overall, I feel we're in the right place right now," Lutzke said. "But we'll find out when we compete this weekend."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Men nearly sweep pole vault

Issue date: 1/26/09

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

With a near sweep in the pole vault, the Central Michigan's men's track team improved in nearly all aspects Saturday at the Red Simmons Invitational in Ann Arbor.

Junior Marcus Briedinger won the event with a season-best 16 foot, 2.75 inch jump and fellow junior Mike McGregor finished in third place, clearing 15 feet, 9 inches.

After being bothered by injuries to begin the year, it was McGregor's first meet of the season, and head coach Jim Knapp believes the performance in the pole vault had a trickle-down effect to the rest of the team.

"That helped a great deal," Knapp said. "Everybody's aware that Marcus won the thing and with McGregor just coming back from injury and him being successful, I think that was very motivational as well."

The Chippewas' early success in the pole vault - the day's third event - carried over to the rest of the squad as they improved "across the board" over last week's performance at Kent State, according to Knapp.

"I thought we were more competitive than we were a week ago," he said, noting in some cases the improvement might not show because of the better competition the team faced on Saturday.

CMU competed in the University of Michigan-hosted event against a field that consisted mostly of in-state schools but featured out-of-state teams like South Florida and Valparaiso.

"Being on the track with the likes of Michigan and Eastern Michigan, we've got some holes we still have to fill," Knapp said.

All-American distance runner Abraham Mach made his season debut, finishing as the runner-up in the 600-meter run with a time of 1:20.72.

"I was excited and it was great to be able to get back out there and run," Mach said about competing for the first time since June.

Knapp said he was impressed with where Mach stood despite him being a little rusty and not in race shape his first race back.

"I thought he did a good job getting back to work and conditioning himself," he said. "He's a thoroughbred and he's a competitor. The next time on the track I'm sure he'll be as good, if not better."

Junior Riak Mabil followed up last week's MAC Track Athlete of the Week performance with a sixth place finish of 8:34.21 in the 3,000-meter run.

The team travels to Ypsilanti and compete in a rare scored tri-meet between Eastern Michigan and University of Detroit.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Men's track team looks to regain form

Chippewas travel to Red Simmons Invitational in Ann Arbor

Issue date: 1/23/09

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

One week after regressing in its second meet after winter break, the CMU men's track team will look to bounce back at the Red Simmons Invitational Saturday in Ann Arbor.

After a solid performance in the Chippewa Open on Jan. 9, the team traveled to Kent State and "lacked focus," in the words of head coach Jim Knapp.

"I'm confused about that," Knapp said of the team's inconsistency the past two meets. "We have to get a little more focused about how we weren't quite as good last week as we were the first weekend at home."

Tomorrow, the team will travel to the home of the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines and compete in a non-scoring meet against local teams beginning at 10 a.m., according to Michigan's official athletic site.

"We don't pay a whole lot of attention to that," said Knapp when asked about the competition level of Saturday's event. "I just concentrate on what we're doing and our people getting ready to do what they're capable of doing."

Knapp said that until the team arrives at an event, they do not know for sure who will attend, noting a situation last week when several schools that entered the meet never showed up for different reasons.

"Track and field is strictly an offensive sport," he said. "There's nothing that you can legally do to impede the progress of the other team. So the competition is really irrelevant."

MAC Honors

After winning their respective events last weekend, it was announced Thursday that junior Riak Mabil and sophomore Oz Lifshitz both took home Mid-American Conference Athlete of the Week awards for Track and Field.

Mabil's time of 15:02.12 currently stands as the conference-best mark in the 500-meter run and Lifshitz, who won the triple jump by almost 20 inches, holds the top two jumps in the conference so far this year.

"I'm really happy with my first MAC honor," Lifshitz said. "This will give me more inspiration to push myself harder and try to represent CMU in the best way that I can."

Lifshitz said that he does not plan on jumping again until Notre Dame's Meyo Invitational the weekend of Feb. 6.

The coaching staff replaced much of the hard training with pure technical work this week at practice, and Knapp believes the team will respond well.

"I fully expect that you'll see a different team," he said. "These guys are all proud, they work hard and they know they weren't on top of their game this last week. We'll be sharper this week."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lifshitz takes on extra duties

Issue date: 1/21/09

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Central Michigan men's track jumper Oz Lifshitz is taking on double duties this indoor season.

With the team's need for another jumper to compete in the long jump event, the 24-year-old sophomore from Israel is preparing weekly for the event in the Mid-American Championships at season's end.

"I'm doing it for the team," Lifshitz said. "It might take a little bit away from my triple jump, but I have to do it."

In last year's outdoor MAC Championships, Lifshitz finished second in the triple jump and fourth in the long jump. Before then, he hadn't experimented with it save a few times messing around at practice.

"He's got a great work ethic, he's very strong and is such a gifted athlete that it should just come down to mastering the technique," said coach Jim Knapp.

With the team's situation, described by assistant coach Troy Irvine as "Literally having nobody in the long jump," Lifshitz is now balancing two jumps with similar dynamics but different techniques.

The long jump is more closely related to the pole vault in terms of mechanics and body alignment.

Lifshitz's more familiar triple jump mirrors that of the vertical high jump.

"One of the challenges is that in the triple jump, although it's a horizontal jump, it's a real powerful type of event," said Knapp. "The athlete has to be very strong. The long jump is all about speed. If you can't fly down the runway, you're not going to long jump very far."

Although different in aspects, the third of the three jumps in the triple jump is virtually the same as the long jump.

In the triple jump, the jumper comes off the board with either foot, change their feet in midair, hit that same foot again and then launch off the opposite foot before they land in the sand.

In simpler terms, "It's like a hop, step, and jump," Knapp said,, with the final jump being most similar to the actions of a long jump.

Lifshitz said he works on the long jump once a week, in preparation for the conference meet at the end of February.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mabil and Lifshitz capture events at Doug Raymond Invitational

Knapp not pleased with team's effort

Issue date: 1/16/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Riak Mabil and Oz Lifshitz were two bright spots in the disappointing performance of the men's track team Saturday at Kent State.

Mabil and Lifshitz took first place in the 5,000-meter run and triple jump, respectively, standing out from what head coach Jim Knapp called a "Very, very average" performance at the Doug Raymond Invitational.

"We weren't sharp, focused, or competitive," Knapp said. "And we need to address those issues right away."

Book-ending the team's otherwise stale performance were Mabil and Lifshitz, their winning performances coming at the beginning and end of the meet.

Mabil, a junior, led the 5,000-meter race wire-to-wire and turned in a time of 15 minutes 2.12 seconds.

Lifshitz, a sophomore, finished the Chippewas day on a high note by clearing 49 feet 2 ½ inches in the day's final event and winning the triple jump for the second consecutive week.

Knapp mentioned the team's long ride to Kent State, only to arrive at a cold indoor track as possible reasons for Saturday's lack of focus, but made it clear the team would not make excuses.

"We aren't making excuses," he said. "We didn't take care of business. When you don't compete and you just go through the motions for whatever reason, that's what happens."

Senior Sean Anthony finished four spots behind Mabil in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:45.35.

Dubbed "Mr. Steady" by Knapp, junior thrower Greg Pilling fouled out of the shot put in the finals.

"He threw O.K., just not quite up to his level," Knapp said.

The coach wouldn't elaborate on an explanation of the foul, saying, "I haven't talked to him yet, so I don't know. Greg is a guy that's doing everything and he has a lot on his plate. I'm not concerned with him at all."

The Chippewas performed well in the pole vault with two top five finishes. Junior Marcus Briedinger and freshman Joseph Jankowski placed fourth and fifth in the event, respectively.

The team will return to action next Saturday in Ann Arbor for the Red Simmons Invitational, hosted by the University of Michigan.

"Hardly nobody attained the level of performance we had last week," said Knapp. "And that's got to change going forward. …We ate some humble pie today."