BALTIMORE – Following a year of record-setting and breakout performances in 2011-12, the UMBC track and field teams look to continue to move up the standings in the America East Conference. The Retrievers open the 2012-13 indoor season this Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Bison Opener, the ninth-straight year UMBC has started at Bucknell.
"We have a lot of good performers, so we're just going to try to cover all of our bases with a great all-around cast," said head coach David Bobb, now in his 15th season as the head man at his alma mater. "I hope we can continue our success and that our team can come together as one."
Behind freshman phenom Mercedes Jackson (Huntingtown, Md./Huntingtown) and junior Amanda Deller (Aberdeen, Md./Aberdeen), the women's team earned a program-best third place finish at the 2012 America East Indoor Championships. Jackson, the meet's Most Outstanding Female Rookie, won the gold medal in the 60m dash with a school-record, as well as facility-record time of 7.49. She also set a new UMBC standard in the 200m dash en route to winning a silver medal.
"We knew that she would be good, but maybe not that good, that fast," coach Bobb said of Jackson. "Now she understands what she can do and she's on the right track to achieve some great goals."
Deller, meanwhile, swept the throwing events, winning the shot put for the third straight year, while also taking top honors in the weight throw.
"As for Amanda, coach [Pete] Koumlelis has done as great job to hone her skills, pushing her in the shot put, but also making her into a two-dimensional athlete with the other events."
In addition to Jackson and Deller, the Retrievers welcome back senior Chowan Brightful (New Market, Md./Linganore), who is the school record holder in the high jump. As a junior, Brightful placed third at the conference meet in the event to go along with a fifth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles.
In the mid-distance running events, juniors Deborah Adelola (Lanham, Md./Blandensburg) and Kirsten Jones (Brentwood, Tenn./M.L.K. Magnet), as well as sophomores Kalane' Abbey (Laurel, Md./Laurel) and Paulette Fogle (Washington, D.C./Bishop McNamara), return for UMBC. Last season, the foursome combined to break the school record in the 4x400 relay while earning a third-place finish at the conference meet. Each of the athletes also currently hold a spot in the UMBC top-ten for the 400-meter run, with Adelola and Fogle also earning a spot in the 500-meter event.
Junior Cody Mezebish (Westminster, Md./South Carroll) and sophomore Mary Katherine Kulp (Vestal, N.Y./Vestal) return to lead the Retriever pack in the distance events. Mezebish earned a fifth-place finish at the America East meet last year with a personal-best 2:14.95 in the 800-meter run, a time which ranks as the second-fastest in school history. Kulp meanwhile posted top-ten marks in both the 800-meter and 1,000-meter runs as a freshman. Sophomore Julie Gessler (Ellicott City, Md./Institute of Notre Dame), who led the Retrievers across the line at the NCAA Cross Country Mid-Atlantic Regionals, and freshman Nicole Dawson (Jessup, Md./Hammond) will also key UMBC's success in the events.
For the men, the Retrievers look to bounce back after dropping one spot to fifth place at last year's championships. With a deep, veteran team on hand, coach Bobb expects just that.
"We have a lot of new faces, but if we can get them to perform, along with the guys we already know, I think we can continue our success and move back up."
Two-time defending champion Trae Proctor (Brandywine, Md./Thomas Stone), now a senior, is back for UMBC, looking to make it a three-peat in the 60m hurdles. His winning time of 8.02 last year was a personal-best and slots him second on UMBC's all-time list. The Retrievers will also look to senior Dennison Long (Greenbelt, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt/FIU) to contribute in the sprints. At last year's Bison Opener, Long posted a career-best 6.93 in the 60m dash, the fifth-fastest time in the conference for the season.
In the mid-distance events, junior Andrew Smith (Chadds Ford, Pa./Garnet Valley) looks to break into the medal winners at the conference meet after placing fourth last year with a personal-best time of 1:52.98 in the 800-meter run. Classmate Jake Albino (Hampton, N.Y./Minisink Valley), who missed last year's indoor season due to injury, will pace the Retrievers in the mile.
After an All-Conference performance during the cross country season this fall, junior Brandan McGee (Hiram, Ohio/Crestwood) looks to lead the pack again inside. During the fall cross country season, he broke the school record in the 5K and 8K distances and earned a top-ten finish at the America East Championships. Junior Vinny DiSalvo (Washingtonville, N.Y./Washingtonville), sophomore Eric Schuler (Columbia, Md./Reservoir), and freshman Hassan Omar (Frederick, Md./Thomas Johnson) will provide depth after all scoring at the conference cross country meet.
The jumps and vaults should be strong for the Retrievers as senior Shioma Obemeata (New Rochelle, N.Y./Iona Prep/St. Francis) looks to claim a conference title in the triple jump after winning a silver medal last year. He will also aim to score in the long jump and high jump competitions.
"Shioma is a great leader for our team on and off the track," said coach Bobb. "He's the perfect teammate and someone that everyone can look up to."
Senior thrower Cameron McDearmon (Owings Mills, Md./Franklin) is back for his final season, looking to turn his previous success into medals at the conference meet. Last indoor season, McDearmon posted the longest weight throw toss in the conference (18.81m; 61-9.5) at the Lafayette/Rider Winter Games, but finished sixth in the event at the America East Championships.
Following the Bison Opener, UMBC will not compete again until the 2013 calendar year when the Retrievers travel north for the Penn State Relays on Saturday, Jan. 5.