By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Featured photo: The SU track team practices ahead of the CAC Championships. Chris Mackowiak photo
In a long indoor and outdoor season, the Salisbury University Track & Field team is constantly on the move, whether on the track or just out on the roadways. SU rarely gets to experience a key factor in sports, home-field advantage.
That changes on Friday and Saturday when the coveted Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Championships come to East Campus for the first time since 2013. In one of the team’s top competitions of the season, the Sea Gulls will at least have the venue in their favor.
“Well, I think you have that familiarity to things,” SU Head Coach Jim Jones said. “You know where the restrooms are. You know where to stretch. You’re gonna sleep in your own bed. You don’t have to travel and get up early in the morning.”
Over at the pole vault, SU sophomore Kyleigh Dumas agrees, saying that there is calming mental aspect with competing on-campus.
“It’s more relaxed since it’s our home turf, since we’re used to this runway and they’re used to those hurdles,” Dumas said. “It takes a little bit of the pressure off of what a normal CAC competition would be.”
Jones says that much has changed in the last five years since the last time SU hosted the event. With conference additions coming since then, Christopher Newport University and Penn State Harrisburg have both joined the event, adding deeper competition to what Jones says is a top-five conference nationally.
If history serves, the Sea Gulls should be excited to host the event considering that the program swept the men’s and women’s titles back in 2013.
The group is coming off another strong showing from their last events at the historic Penn Relays. SU’s male and female 4×400-meter relay teams each set their best times of the season with the men winning their heat and the women finishing fifth in theirs.
— Salisbury XC and T&F (@SalisburyXC_TF) April 28, 2018
While the recent success provides some momentum into the conference championships, Jones says that he feels as though the overall team has improved each week through the season.
“I think it’s been just building throughout,” Jones said. “We kind of just started in the fall and circled this date and said, ‘this is what we’re working for. This is the date when we’re at home, we have a conference meet.’ So, since October we’ve been working for these two days.”
“I think we’re at a point where we’re starting to show the work we’ve put in, especially last weekend at the Penn Relays.”
One Sea Gull building up to this moment through his career has been senior hammer-thrower Duncan Ferrin. Setting records throughout the 2018 season, the Mt. Airy, Md. native set the school record again at the Penn Relays.
Even more impressive to Jones was the competition that the senior faced at the event. Among Ferrin’s group was defending-national champion in the indoor weight throw.
“He didn’t bat an eye, so that showed me there that there’s a lot of maturity that he has grown over his four years, specifically this year,” Jones said. “He’s always had the physical gifts his last two years, but I think he’s taken his mental game to such a high level that he’s not fearful of anyone.”
Jones says that Ferrin reminds him a lot of some former SU individual greats such as Luke Campbell. The work ethic has been there and the records are showing for it now.
After originally being involved with shot put and discus in high school, Ferrin found the opportunity to try out the hammer once he reached SU. His work up until his senior has allowed him to excel currently, placing first at the CNU Captains Classic and then sixth at the Penn Relays.
“I stayed really focused this year with my diet and exercise and training in general,” Ferrin said. “My coach Dylan [Burkett] and I have been working together, talking about the whole season in general, fine tuning bits and pieces that are just super specific to make everything perfect. It’s perfect so I can’t complain.”
Having not won a CAC title yet in his career, one bonus to Ferrin’s preparation this season has been the addition of a few throwing area on East Campus. With the demolition of the old SU Baseball Field, the open lot was transformed into an addition practice and competition area for the track & field program.
Ferrin enjoys throwing in the new area and says that it gives off a more professional feel. His head coach agrees, saying that the SU facilities are now some of the best among all of their destinations.
— Salisbury XC and T&F (@SalisburyXC_TF) April 28, 2018
Over at the runway, Dumas continues to improve as well. Just in her sophomore campaign, the pole-vaulter continues to break and re-break records over the course of the season.
Ahead of the conference championships, Dumas broke the CAC record at 12 feet during the Captains Classic. The ECAC Division III South Field Athlete of the Week says that her goal is to get even higher at 12 feet 6 inches during her event. All of her success this season only makes the sophomore hungrier for more.
“It makes me excited for next year and what I could possibly do, especially if I get to go to nationals this year,” Dumas said. “I’d hope next year that I could place top-five or continue my success.”
Track & Field is part of the family business for the Easton, Conn. native. Her father participated in decathlons in high school before competing in events at the collegiate level, also helping to coach Dumas early on in her career.
After her sister took to dribbling on the basketball court, Dumas was left to continue the family tradition.
“I started in my sophomore year of high school. I was on and off. I did gymnastics too, so it wasn’t my main sport,” Dumas said. “I ended up liking it by my senior year and then decided to come [to SU] and do some more.”
After a slower start to her collegiate career last season, everything seems to be gelling for Dumas. Jones believes she is only a few inches away from something really special.
“I think she’s on the cusp of making the national meet,” Jones said. “She’s on that bubble, so I think for her the goal is to make it and get that experience because once a student-athlete has been to the national meet, then it just opens another whole arena for them.”
“I think she’s getting to that point where she’s going to competition, she’s going to win. It’s just how high is she going to vault today.”
The CAC Championships start on SU’s East Campus on Friday, continuing through Saturday to complete the two-day event. Dumas and Ferrin will both feature alongside many Sea Gulls across various events.
Other than the Sea Gull action out there and a potential tan on Friday at 2 p.m., Jones says that this two-day event will be a must-watch.
“I think you’ll see some of the greatest competition at a collegiate track meet. I feel that we’re one of the top-five conferences in the country. You’re going to see some high-level competition.”