Following a third place finish at last year's NEWMAC Championships the Coast Guard men's track time is primed for even bigger things this season. This year's team will be led by senior captains Adam Scalesse, Ben Wolhaupter, Brad Pienta, and Clay Kosack.
Ethan Brown is back for his third season at the helm as the Bears' head coach. He'll be assisted by Greg Ahnrud, Ray LaForte, Kim Johnson, Marcus Ivery, Ben Thuma, Andrea Parker, Chris Bonner and Patti Olson.
Depth in virtually every discipline with be a major strength for the team this season as Coast Guard returns all but one (Will Baker, throws) of their primary scorers from a year ago.
In the sprints, Scalesse (60m Hurdles Indoor, 110m Hurdles Outdoor), a four-time All-American, will lead the Bears in the hurdle events while also serving as the anchor on this year's 4x400m relay team. The other members of the 4x400m relay team are expected to be juniors James Dawkins, Kelcey Smith, and sophomore Frederick Higgins. Dawkins has run as quick as a 51.44 in the 400m dash but accounted for a remarkable 48 second split at last year's Outdoor New England Open 4x400m relay. Higgins is a hair faster than Dawkins in the 400m (50.78) but has run faster splits during relays. Smith should provide support in the 4x400m relay while also seeing some time in both the 200m and 400m runs.
As a Division III New England qualifier, junior Ben Hannon was terrific a season ago and should see time between the sprint relays, 400m, and 200m this season.
Wolhaupter will be Coast Guard's top pole vaulter, after finishing 8th at the NCAA Division III Championships a season ago, earning All-American accolades. His best jump of the championship last year checked in at 15'11" and with five of the vaulters who finished ahead of him graduating, he's on the short list of favorites to compete for the individual championship this year.
Kosack who is a multi-event specialist and all-around athlete was an NCAA Division III Outdoor qualifier last year in the decathlon. He made huge strides from his sophomore to junior season and Coach Brown expects the same from his junior year to his senior season this year. In addition to the decathlon, Kosack is also expected to be a major player in the indoor heptathlon in 2013/14.
Coach Brown also points to sophomore Matt Navetta (pole vault) who was a Division III New England qualifier a year ago as someone who should consistently score for the Bears this season.
The top thrower for Coast Guard will be junior Thomas Bondurant. A year ago, Bondurant launched a throw of 53'5.5" in the weight throw and was a consistent scorer in all championship events last season.
The deepest disciplines for Coast Guard will likely be in the distance and mid-distance events where numerous athletes are primed for big seasons.
In the mid-distance, the Bears are led by Pienta who will be a fixture on the 4x800m relay team. He'll be joined by senior Jordan Lee and juniors Ryan Hub and James Martin. Lee has run as fast a 1:54.08 in the 800m and will be counted on to provide key leadership this season. Martin has a personal best of 1:59.07 in the 800m but has run faster splits in the 4x800m relay while Hub is considered to be a 4x800m relay specialist.
The distance portion of the team will be led by cross country a Division III National qualifier in senior Gary Ezzo who will be a fixture in the 3,000m and 5,000m events. He is also in the mix as a possibility in some relays. Juniors Nicholas Foster, Jon Lash, and Joey O'Connell were all key scorers during the cross country season and appear to be natural fits to join Ezzo in both the 3,000m and 5,000m. Much like his classmates, junior Stephen Horvath should be in the mix to compete in the same events, but specializes in the 3,000m outdoor steeplechase.
Among newcomers, Coach Brown points to four athletes who should be major contributors immediately. Two distance runners, freshmen Gilliam Hill and Zachary Velasquez look to provide quality depth in the distance events. While Hill doesn't have a determined specialty event as of yet, he should excel in a number of events while Velasquez will specialize in the 3,000m and also see action in the 5,000m and 1 mile.
Sophomore Andrew Scheffey is another newcomer this season after injury curtailed his freshman campaign in 2012/13. He'll be expected to add depth to the mid-distance events this year. Lastly, freshman Kaci Rex (pole vault) will be expected to supplement Navetta and Wolhaupter to give Coast Guard arguable their best trio of pole vaulters in Academy history.
In all the Bears seem primed for a breakout season as a team and could see numerous individuals come away with significant accolades and awards. There is plenty of room for optimism about this year and the state of Coast Guard Track and Field. Putting together one of the most competitive schedules in school history should challenge this group of cadets to excel throughout both the indoor and outdoor seasons and prepare them for the championship portion of the slate.