Raleigh Relays, hosted by North Carolina State University, has in recent years become not only one of the best meets on the East Coast, but also one of the best college track meets in the entire United States. With the flights, hotels, travel time, and other restricting factors associated with attending the legendary California meets of the Stanford and Payton Jordan Invitationals, many increasingly money-squeezed track programs this side of the Rockies have begun to elect Raleigh Relays as their meet of choice early in the outdoor season. Raleigh Relays is where teams from the Ivy League, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 10 and others go to run fast early, setting their athletes up for a hard mid-season training block in preparation for the championship season in May. The NC State meet is where big names go to take scalps, set regional qualifying standard times, and strut their stuff after the post-indoor season break.
For this reason, the meet now has lightning-quick entry times. In other words, to even earn a spot on the line, you have to have had run fast already this year. For many smaller schools and younger athletes, these entry standards are prohibitively fast. A spot on the starting line of the men’s 5,000m requires at least a 14:30, and to for a spot in the 10,000m you had better be under 30:00. The women’s events are no easier to enter. Despite these cutthroat standards, the UNCG women’s track and field team sent three athletes to Raleigh Relays this year. Among them were the freshmen duo of Kaitlyn Stone and Taylor Delaney, both in the 5,000m run, and Katy Link, who ran the 10,000m.
Katlyn Stone, who came to UNCG from West Stokes High School, left Raleigh with a new personal best time of 17:47, dipping under the time she ran in peak shape at indoor conference a few months ago. Unfortunately, the teammates who joined Kaitlyn Stone at NC State this past weekend would not meet with the same success. For Katy Link, as for many athletes, mid-March proved to be too early for a 10,000m. Taylor Delaney had a somewhat better experience, just missing her personal best from cross-country season by running a 17:53.
The rest of the track team traveled elsewhere this weekend, with the men’s team attending the Winthrop Invitational in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Will Sandin, a sophomore from Raleigh, snagged the win in his 1500m heat, dealing the field a crushing blow with a near 60-second last lap. He ended the weekend with a new personal record over the metric mile distance by running 4:05. David Guthrie also ran the 1500m, coming close to his personal best over the distance running 4:11. This time looks all the more impressive considering the senior’s recent grueling training block in preparation for the 10,000m. Hurdler Jeffrey Beane earned a berth in the 110m finals. He would secure a new personal record in the event, finishing a close second in 15.19.
Next weekend will see the Spartans travel just down the road to High Point University for the popular HPU Vertklasse meet. This meet attracts many of the big-name schools in North Carolina, making it the ideal location for some mid-season competition. The Blue and Gold will also meet some of their in-conference competition at this meet. UNCG plans to send a slew of runners to compete over the 5000m distance. Much as with this weekend, the Spartans will hope to see a series of personal bests across the board. Following the High Point meet, the Spartans will travel to other meets across North Carolina, among them Appalachian States’ Mountaineer Invitational and NC State’s Wolfpack Last Chance meet. Following this series of meets, the UNCG men and women’s track teams will travel to Birmingham, Alabama to face off against their rivals in the Southern Conference Championship.