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Men's 2002-03 season preview
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The Binghamton University Men's Track and Field team heads into its second season in the America East Conference with a squad that head coach Mike Thompson feels is stronger than last year.

"This year our sprinters and jumpers are stronger, and we are equal to last year's squad in the other events," Thompson said. "Many of our athletes have a chance of placing this year at the America East Championships."

The key this year will lie in the middle distance events. Despite the loss of conference 800 and 1000 meter place-winner Kevin Kirk to graduation, the group will remain strong with a list of returning veterans.

Graduate student Matt Dresser holds the outdoor school record in the 1500 (3:54.8). Last season, he placed fifth in the 1500 at the America East Conference Championship. Graduate student Steve Reese holds the indoor school record for the 800 (1:54.67). At last season's outdoor conference meet, he finished sixth in the 800 (1:56.55). Senior Francisco Savinon, who placed fourth in the 800 at the conference meet last season (1:55.66), and sophomore Travis Von Staden, whose fastest time in high school was 1:53.2, will contribute to the men's middle distance program as well.

"Savinon, Von Staden, and Reese are very close in ability and create a good practice environment," Thompson said. "That adds to the team's cohesiveness."

Senior Bobby Heytota, another one of the top returning middle distance runners, will also add strength to the group.

"Bobby is looking strong in cross country and could fill in the void left by Kevin Kirk on the [4x800] relay team," Thompson said.

Sophomores Kellen Wadach, who was the Bearcat's top cross country runner this fall, and Pete Chambers will be the team's top 5000 meter runners.

"Kellen has had a very good year in cross country and is a stronger and more focussed runner this season." Thompson said. Sophomore Sergey Shteyn and freshman Prahlad Genung will also compete in the longer distance events.

Freshmen Jon Amoona, a section eight high school champion, and Joseph Flucus are the top two newcomers in the sprint events.

"Jon will focus on the 55, 100 and 200," Thompson said, "whereas Joseph does very well at 200 and 400 meters."

Graduate student Omar Eldakar and sophomore Hasani Hampden will be the main factors in the 400.

"Omar is finally healthy after suffering a hamstring injury his sophomore year, and looks stronger than he did when he set the school record [in the 400]," Thompson said. "Hasani has the potential to move up the ladder - he is faster and is training better this year."

In the 400 hurdles, senior Mike Stewart and sophomore Neil Case are the top returnees. Both placed at the America East Conference meet last year.

"Mike could break our school record [in the 400 Hurdles]. He has the talent and just needs to race more aggressively to get it," Thompson said.

A trio of high jumpers, sophomore Matt Cushman, freshman Luke Shafer and sophomore Nick Tillman, has jumped 6-10, 6-7 and 6-6 respectively and will be a solid group this year for the Bearcats. Sophomores Joe Guerrero, James Bellew and Tillman will compete in the triple jump.

In the pole vault, sophomores Andy Kirsch and Mike Ksionzyk are the top returnees, and both have the potential to jump 15 feet, according to Thompson. Freshmen Mark Ropiecki and Dan Matson will also contribute in the vault.

After scoring points in all of the throwing events except the javelin last season at the America East Conference Championship, the Bearcats are looking for even better things this season.

"Our throwers are all very hard workers and very disciplined," said Thompson. "They should do pretty well."

Junior Andrew Cloud, who was fourth in the America East Championship's hammer (163-2) and weight (51-6) last year, and junior Matty Fuchs, who was sixth at the America East Meet in the hammer, are the top returning hammer and weight throwers. Another strong thrower for the Bearcats is sophomore Jared Ketchuck.

"Jared is one of our strongest athlete in the weight room," Thompson said. "With improved technique he could score [at the America East Championships] in the weight, hammer, shot and discus this season."

Sophomore Todd Wassinger is also a solid thrower for the team. He placed eighth in the hammer throw last year at the America East Conference Championship, and could contribute in the shot put as well this season.

In the decathlon, Binghamton will add freshman Matt Nolan, who was the New York State Class A Champion in the pentathlon last spring. He was also a goalie on the Binghamton men's soccer team this past fall.

"If Matt stays healthy, he could get the school record in the decathlon. He is a strong all around athlete, good quarter miler and jumper," Thompson said.

This season the Bearcats have the talent, experience and potential to improve on its indoor seventh and outdoor fifth place finishes at the America East Conference.

"We sort of held on with a very young team last year." Thompson said. "If everyone competes to their potential we will improve this season."
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