The USF track and field indoor season kicks off Saturday at the Nittany Lion Challenge hosted by Penn State at State College, Pa. and coach Warren Bye said he’s eager to see “week-to-week improvement” in hopes of finishing top three in the conference and NCAA Championships.
Leading the Bulls this year are senior Courtney Anderson, senior Kevin Bell and sophomore Matthew O’Neal, Bye said.
Anderson set USF records in both the indoor and outdoor high jump event last
season, while Bell finished third in the long jump at the Big East Championships.
O’Neal, also a USF men’s soccer player, won the Big East Championships in the indoor long jump and holds the third-best outdoor jump in USF history in his freshman campaign. Bye is anticipating more top finishes from O’Neal as he balances two sports.
“Matthew does everything he needs to on both sides,” Bye said. “We appreciate (men’s soccer coach) George (Kiefer) allowing us to share him. He took care of things in soccer and did a great job as a freshman on the track as well. We’re excited to watch him in his second year here and see what he can do. The sky is the limit for him in the triple jump.”
While Anderson and Bell are seniors with experience, Bye said anyone can make an impression at a competition like O’Neal did and it’s not necessarily about experience in events, but maturity.
“It’s about maturity and having the opportunity to compete,” he said. “I think it helps to be a senior, but those three were underclassmen last season and stepped up when it counted. It goes to show they can get it done, even if it’s their first experience at that level.”
Each week of competition, a track and field leader board is a collection of scores by individual competitors rather than a team name and a number. However, team chemistry becomes most important at the end of the season in conference championships, Bye said.
“Track and field is an individual sport but if we get together at the end of the season I think chemistry is very
important,” he said. “A lot of kids at the beginning and during the season are getting ready for their individual event but when we go to conference championships our kids do a great job of supporting each other.”
Instead of taking a year-to-year approach in judging successes, Bye said he looks for improvement week-to-week in order to peak at the right time.
“Our goals are week-to-week to improve on what you did the previous week,” he said. “Obviously that’s not always going to happen, but our end goal is to do what we’ve done all season at the conference meet. If you step up a little bit that’s great. If they improve each week, we’ll be able to finish in the top three (at conference championships).”
After the Bulls first meet, they’ll head to Minneapolis the following weekend, New York on Feb. 7 and Birmingham, Ala. on Feb. 14 before the American Athletic Conference Indoor Championships at the end of February.