The start of the new semester marks the beginning of the spring collegiate sports season, and for NC State fans there’s a lot to look forward to this year. One team in particular to keep your eye on is the Wolfpack track and field team.
The NC State athletes are following a very successful season in 2020-21 and a cross country campaign this past fall that led to an NCAA Championship win for the NC State women. With a full slate of invitationals stretching from now until the beginning of June, it is bound to be an exciting next few months, so let's dive a little deeper into what fans should expect.
Featuring a talented roster with depth all around the track, this article would be much too long if every individual was listed out one-by-one but here's a few highlights of names to look out for this spring.
There’s redshirt senior distance runner Ian Shanklin, a two-time ACC champion who will look to defend his 10,000m title from last season. Also defending a title is senior distance runner Hannah Steelman who took first in the 2021 ACC outdoor 3000m steeplechase.
Another group of note are the hurdles, NC State’s strongest events. Junior Joshua Brockman, senior Cameron Murray and freshman Alexander Nunley make up the team for the Pack on the men's side, and juniors Ally Henson and Akira Rhodes and graduate student Brandi Hughes represent the women.
The season began with the Winston-Salem College Kick-Off Classic and Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener back in December, but after roughly a month long break the Pack will be back in action to officially start the spring schedule with back-to-back weekends at Virginia Tech at the Virginia Tech Invitational and Hokie Invitational on Jan. 14.
“It’s, let’s see where you’re at, your training, what do we need to work on and raise your level,” said men’s head coach Rollie Geiger. “I don’t expect NCAA type qualifying marks after a layoff that long, but it would be a developmental meet, both those meets. What I expect is towards the end of January and February that the marks will get much better after some early season competition. So, a check, where you’re at in your training, and what do we need to do”
A few more meets in the Carolinas and Virginia make up the rest of the schedule through the ACC Championships at the end of February, marking the end of the indoor season.
NC State will then head down to Florida for the UCF Invitational before returning to Raleigh to host the Raleigh Relays at the end of March.
“Well, it’s got a history and every high level program in the country is interested in coming to Raleigh,'' Geiger said. “Recently we actually had to cap it and I think it’s a great event. It’s a turning event for the city, for the university and for the city of Raleigh. … It’s a great event and it’s got a great tradition.”
The Pack will spend the later part of the season traveling around the east coast before the ACC Championships in mid-May and NCAA Regionals and Championships which conclude in June.
It’s a long season from early January to the beginning of June and the main focus through those six months is on development.
“It’s about development, athletes need to get better every day,” Geiger said. “Preparing for indoor championships, and then all of a sudden you turn around and you’re outdoors so the idea is that their best races or jumps or throws that are done will be in May. So some of this is development for the ACC Championships indoors, but then we turn around and in May we do the outdoors so again it’s about development and progression.”
The next competition for NC State, the Virginia Tech Invitational, is set to begin Jan. 14 in Blacksburg, Virginia.