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Spring athletes prepare for upcoming seasons

February 5, 2010

Even in the middle of winter, the spring season of varsity sports at UW-River Falls is only months away for outdoor track and softball teams.

Both teams are coming off seasons that held mixed results, with average finishes in the standings.

After winning the Div. III National Championship in outdoor track in the 2007-08 season, the women finished fifth in the WIAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships last year with 78 team points. This put them in the middle of the conference, with nine teams competing in the championship. The men finished eighth with a total of 38 team points, according to the WIAC Web site.

The interim coach, Keven Syverson said he does think the team women’s team could improve, but does not expect them to repeat as champions.

“While we are not ready to compete for a title this year, we do have some outstanding athletes on the women’s side,” he said. “I would think our women’s team can be in the top four at the conference meet.”

Syverson said he thinks that the sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers could be among the top performers in the spring, judging by their indoor performances. The men’s team also looks toward improvement this year after a below-average finish in the WIAC Championships last season.

With the men’s team returning all of its athletes, Syverson looks for the team to better itself from the previous year.

“Our men’s team returns everyone from last year, and I would like to see us crack into [the] top six at the conference meet in May,” he said. “Our men’s team has gotten better every year, and we will start to see it paying off at the conference meet very soon.”

The team has some very “solid” athletes in jumping, distance running and sprinting that will help the team, Syverson said.

Both of these teams will compete at the Knowles Center on Feb. 12 as part of the Brooks Classic, a meet hosted as part of the indoor track season.

“This will give students and faculty and staff an opportunity to see our team close up and also see some very good track and field athletes,” Syverson said.

The athletes agree that indoor track is like a warm-up for the outdoor season.

“The indoor season prepares athletes for outdoor by giving [us] a longer training period to prepare for outdoor events,” said senior distance runner Chad Ernst. “It also provides them with more competitions in which they can compete and critique their skills.”

Both men and women’s track will begin the outdoor season on April 9 at the Falcon Invite, which is held at Ramer Field.

The UWRF softball team had a season that included high points as well as low points. The softball team finished 27-16 in the regular season despite only going 8-8 in conference play. This was all changed, however, when in the WIAC tournament the team defeated two nationally ranked teams, including the WIAC regular season champions, UW-Whitewater.

This season, the Falcons look to build on their successes in the postseason. Interim Head Coach Jody Gabriel is setting the standard high for her players.

“Our team goal is to win the WIAC regular season title and the WIAC Tournament in 2010,” she said. “We have high expectations, and we see ourselves competing in the NCAA posseason tournament.”

The team is young, with only one senior on the roster, and nine of the team’s 17 players will be freshman who are new to collegiate softball. Gabriel does not see the team’s experience as a hindrance to the upcoming season.

“We lost three starters from last year’s team but we have added many talented athletes [who are] ready to fill those roles,” she said. “Most of these athletes are very versatile and have competed at top levels throughout their high school years.”

The softball team will start their season on March 14 in Kissimmee, Florida, as part of the Rebel Spring games.