The expectations around the Stevenson track and field program have never been higher. Heading into the team's indoor season opener Saturday at Franklin and Marshall's Diplomat Open, the Mustangs, who are coming off both the men's and women's teams finishing third at last spring's Middle Atlantic Conference Championship, fourth-year head coach Erick Camodeca is excited to see if his teams can pick up where they left off and reach even greater heights in 2017-18.
"You're really starting to see the types of athletes that I wanted to bring into the program. The kids are a little more serious about their training, and you really see that development happening," said Camodeca. "At the same time, my expectations have risen as well, so even though we've been working hard, there's days that I think we can get a little bit more out of the team, or that we should be at a certain point. The kids really respond well to that though, because we want to be great, we want to win a conference championship."
The Mustang men are without the face of their program for the past four years in Devonte Williams, a four-time All-American sprinter between indoor and outdoor and the first male Stevenson qualifier for NCAA nationals. While Williams is gone, the Mustangs return a deep group in sprints.
Juniors Morgan Cheatham, Malcolm Hayward and Matt Riggins all return for the Mustangs after fine sophomore seasons. Riggins finished third in the 400 and fifth in the 200 at the MAC indoor championship while placing third behind Williams and national qualifier Juwan Petties-Jackson of Misericordia in the 100 at the MAC outdoor meet. Hayward and Cheatham both qualified for the 60-meter final at the MAC indoor meet, while Hayward was seventh in the 100 at the outdoor championship
"As much as we're going to miss Devonte, his points aren't going to be missed, because we have a lot of people who are ready to step up. In addition to Matt, Malcolm and Morgan, we have a couple of other freshmen and a couple of transfers who are going to really solidify our sprints," said Camodeca. "We also have a couple freshmen coming in on the jumps side, so I am really, really excited about that."
In distance, the Mustang men are coming off a second place performance at the MAC Championship in cross country and a seventh-place finish in the NCAA Mideast Region. For the first time, two individuals qualified for the national meet, with sophomore Patrick Watson and junior Langston Gash traveling to Elgin, Illinois last month.
"The distance group has picked up from cross country and they're going to try to give it one last go and see what they can do," said Camodeca.
The women's team returns sophomore Danika Ani, who qualified for NCAA nationals during both the indoor and outdoor seasons in the shot put. Camodeca is excited about her return and notes that the women's side should have more depth in years past.
"On the women's side, we had a great recruiting class last year and most of them are back," said Camodeca. "A couple of this year's freshmen are going to add depth to our sprints. Last year we were top-heavy, but not we're going to back it up with some depth."
Sophomore Dyonne Hicks was an All-Region performer last winter in the triple jump and also place fourth in the 400 meter hurdles at the MAC outdoor meet. Classmate Kimberly Hammond was fourth in both the 60 and 200 at the conference indoor championship, while in addition to Ani, juniors Jess Rega and Lauren Dioses returns as an All-Region performers in throws.
As far as goals, Camodeca wants to keep building on the Mustangs' momentum.
"We want to be in the top three on both sides. We want to be there at the start of the indoor season and see what happens going into outdoor. We're also really excited as far as our expectations of getting kids out to nationals and to have an opportunity to see some different faces on both sides," said Camodeca.