Staten Island, NY | December is normally a rather slow month on the College of Staten Island athletics calendar. A small handful of basketball games on the hardwood and meets in the pool decorate the month, broken up by academic finals and the holidays. But on Saturday, December 1, the Dolphins program will be ushering in a new chapter of intercollegiate play, and it hopes to be anything but slow, with the introduction of varsity track and field. The installation of the indoor season will take place at Springfield College this weekend, and will intensify this winter. It will mark the first time that the sports have been offered at the College.
A club sport offering for the past few years, track and field always had a modicum of interest at CSI, but the decision to take on both indoor and outdoor season’s to the varsity level started a year ago, along with an earnest commitment from the Athletic Department to sponsor a team with the intention of not just participating, but competing at a high level.
“As a department we are all looking forward to elevating our track program from a club sport to the varsity level,” said CSI Director of Athletics Charles Gomes. “We believe we are on our way to developing a program that will be competitive both in our conference and also regionally.”
Enter Jason McFall, who in the spring of 2018 took over the reins of both the track and field and cross-country programs in a full-time capacity. For McFall the mission was simple: recruit the region’s top student-athletes and introduce them to the new and developing history on the CSI campus. The result was a vastly improved cross-country faring this fall, one that McFall hopes to parlay into a successful run on the track and in the field this winter, leading to the outdoor season this spring.
“There’s definitely a nervous energy around our team right now,” said McFall with a laugh. “Our teams will be forging their own brand, and making a name for ourselves is something that is paramount in our minds right now. Everyone on our team want to be the best, but we also know we need to crawl before we can walk and we need to walk before we can run. So, we are trying to stay tempered while being very excited about our potential.”
Of course, those unaccustomed to the track and field scene will learn quickly the vast differences between the sprint and field events from the long-course, endurance-based, rigor of the cross-country season. The Dolphins will look to excel in track events like the mile and sprint events like the 60-meter, 200-meter, and 400-meter and field events such as the shotput and triple and long jumps. Track meets can sometimes last a handful of hours with teams earning points in each event that culminate in a final score by meet’s end. Athletes are allowed to compete in as many events as their coaches choose, so according to McFall, it’s important to balance an athlete’s strengths with ample rest and recuperation times between events. With every race and event, a new bar will be set at CSI.
That leads to part of the excitement. McFall wants his teams to be competitive and in the mix for a CUNYAC Championship right out of the gate, but he also knows that the 2018-19 unit is one that is expected to lay the groundwork for future accolades to come. That means records and personal-bests will be set time and again.
“Our top goals for the year are to make sure we are laying a foundation for success in years to come,” he said. “It’s totally important for us to give our best effort and draw more athletes to our program that have the same mindset and prowess that our existing student-athletes have. That’s how great programs build, and that is what we are doing, building a winner.”
After this weekend’s meet, the focus for McFall and his units will be to train rigorously for the bulk of the schedule that takes place in January and February, ultimately leading to the CUNYAC Championship Meet on February 24. With only seven meets spread out over the course of the next 13 weeks, CSI, like many other teams in the region, will do a lot more prep work than competition, which makes the meets themselves an incredible chance for the athletes to showcase their talents. Individual marks earned throughout the season and at the CUNYAC Championship will hopefully earn the Dolphins a place in the NCAA Regional Championships in early-March, just a couple of weeks before the start of the outdoor season.
“I think there are going to be a lot of wide eyes at some of our meets this season,” McFall said, “But that’s the nature of track & field in general. You work against yourself during practice and then you get to the meet and you’re lining up against athletes that are sometimes on scholarship for Division I and Division II schools and others that may be at a lower level. Because these athletes are all housed in the same meet, it means that you really do have to be at your best when the competition starts, so you have to channel that focus and intensity at the invitationals.”
Although many members on the CSI roster have been a part of track and field their entire careers, including the club team at CSI, there is something to be said about being the inaugural team to do it “for real” at the College, an importance not lost on CSI senior Liam McMunn.
“I think it’s great knowing that I helped start something here at CSI and that I’ll be one of the first to compete officially for the school in track and field,” said the senior and cross-country all-star. “To be able to look back years from now knowing I was part of the first official team is a great feeling,” McMunn said. “Being able to compete alongside my teammates as an official varsity team is like a dream come true. I am really happy to be a part of it.”
McFall is relishing the thought of bringing CSI to new heights in their newest sports offerings, but is also tempered with his expectations. His “one meet at a time” approach is certainly warranted, but don’t be surprised if the sport emerges as a signature one at the College, a testament to the focus of the student-athletes and staff surrounding the program.
“I think we are going to have a nice balance this year,” said McFall. “We will be attending some smaller meets where I think we can really be competitive and raise our level of confidence for when we attend the bigger and more prestigious meets that will feature some very high caliber and nationally-competitive programs. If we can be consistent through it all I think we can work our way in developing a very good program here, something we are all excited to be a part of.”
Live results and live video for CSI’s historic entrance into track and field will be available on December 1 during the Springfield Invitational in Springfield, Massachusetts. See the CSI Track & Field Schedules for more details.