By Andrew Smith
The track and field season is underway. The Panthers already began to build a strong foundation for the long season ahead when they competed at the Art Kadish Elm City Challenge on Dec. 8 and the Crimson Gold Invite on Dec. 9. As they prepare for the long journey to the NE10 Championship that awaits, players Matthew Wenz and Andre Francis shared their thoughts about what’s to come.
Wenz, a junior communications major, is competing in his third season. He is a multi-competitor, earned a bronze medal in decathlon and finished seventh in heptathlon at the 2022 NE10 Indoor Championships. When discussing his preparation, Wenz said: “A major focal point for me this offseason was building speed and working on my start/first half of the race. I split my time on the track and in the weight room this summer. It’s been a long six months since our last meet during outdoor season so I’m still waiting to showcase what I’ve been working on, but that time will come soon enough.”
Francis is a junior and is also competing in his third season. The exercise science major competed in the shot put, discus throw and hammer throw at the 2022 NE10 Outdoor Championships and placed fourth in the hammer throw at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Invitational in 2022.
“A major focus for me this past offseason was not `trying’ to perform. It sounds funny, but that’s just another way of keeping the focus on executing rather than trying to force a personal best every time I throw,” Francis said. “This has been vital in improving my performance at meets and being more consistent than I was in prior years. This was not only a major focal point for me, but my teammates as well. We learned how to perform such a high-energy and explosive event with patience and intent.”
While the Panthers have only begun to compete, spirits are high as the team is starting to showcase their hard work in the offseason. Francis said, “Even though we are only two weeks into the indoor season, it has definitely been off to an excellent start. It is a good indicator of how the season is going to go.”
“There’s been a lot of work put in during the offseason and people are eager to showcase that work,” said Wenz.
Throughout a long season, momentum ends up playing a significant factor in team morale as they experience several ups and downs. Wenz reflected on this and explained the importance of focusing on the end goal.
“Keeping a competitive mindset for me comes naturally,” he said. “I’m very focused on what’s going on right now and I try not to dwell on past meets/results or look too far ahead. Things like that often cause distractions. Taking the season one meet at a time, one event at a time is super important.”
Added Francis, “Personally, I am constantly reminding myself that whatever I am going through will make my achievements that much better. I also try to remind myself that at the end of the season I don’t want to be able to look back and say I could have done more.”
All of the preparation throughout the season comes down to the NE10 Championships on Feb. 16-17. Wenz explained how these two days are “underlined and circled” on his calendar. “The goal of our season is always to peak for the NE-10 Conference Championship Meet, so that is the immediate goal. Anything before that is only preparation,” said Francis.
Wenz said, “I’m really excited to see what this group can do, we’ve become a very well-rounded team over the last year/year and a half and I think that we can make a run that people aren’t expecting. We’ve trusted the process and the program, it’s time to show up and do some damage.”
Be sure to keep cheering on our Panthers as they compete throughout the tri-state area over the next few months.