St. John’s University kicks off indoor track and field season on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Youree Spence Garcia Invitational, which will be held at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island. It will be a busy few days for director of track and field/cross country Aliann Pompey, a four-time Olympian who currently serves as president of the Panam Sports Athletes’ Commission. Just prior to the opening meet, she will attend the Panam Sports Athletes’ forum.
“Overall, I think our season is going to be great,” said Pompey. “We had initially 22 new people come in. Typically, on a big year we bring in eight or nine. Then we’ll have tryouts and maybe we’ll add one to three more people. It’s been incredibly busy. It was a huge adjustment period for obvious reasons. We have a lot more international kids [nine countries plus the U.S.]. With this class we have probably the highest caliber of class coming in.”
Some of the sprinters already have highly competitive times and there’s a middle distance runner from Turkey who can vie for top placements. Among the top returners are sprinters Brooklyn Chestnut and Tatyana McKenzie.
“We’re starting off pretty well, and we’re hoping that not only translates to a really good indoor season, but that it also helps with our recruiting because we want to continue to bring in these high caliber athletes,” Pompey said. “We want to not just compete in the Big East, but we’re deliberately, purposefully pulling out all the stops to try to win the Big East Conference meet and take more people to NCAA Regionals and NCAA Finals.”
There are also some new faces on the track and field staff. Volunteer assistant coach Michael Robinson works with the sprinters. Volunteer assistant coach Kawan Lovelace, an Olympian in the triple jump, works with the jumpers. Bob Sorenson will be the pole vault coach.
“More this year than any other year, we’ve had to rely on our captains to be that bridge between not just us and them, but the transition,” said Pompey. “I can’t sing the praises of the captains [Chestnut, Meghan Ladd, Samantha Morillo-Martinez and Hannah Huleatt] enough. I feel like they did a lot of the good work that needed to be done with getting everybody integrated into a routine.
“We all feel really good about the season,” she adds. “The key thing is making sure everybody stays healthy and positive, and we’re good to go.”