A home track meet might not seem like a big deal to a coach who has won 23 team championships and 23 North Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors. But today’s meet marks the first time Bill Ross’ Gators will be the home team.

At 2 p.m. today, Allegheny College kicks off its inaugural Gator Invitational on the rennovated Fuhrer Field.

“Before this, there was a 440-yard, all-weather track in the 1970s,” Ross said. “That’s it. I’ve been coaching 18 years, and I’ve never hosted a home track meet in my life. I’ve won however many track titles and whatever else. It’s real exciting.”

Finding ways to practice before the track was built was always interesting, according to Ross.

“The ingenuity really needed to be in place to come up with exciting ways of practicing in the past,” he said.

“Some of the things we did were running the sidewalks and the streets, and we have done a lot of hill work. As long as it was plowed and salted, we were on it.

“We would go out and run under the Smock bridge and do some things under there sometimes.”

Not anymore. Rain or shine, the Gators have an all-weather surface on which to work out, and they want to share it with the public and some old friends this week.

“We have quite a few alums coming back to participate on this track for the first time, which I think it important,” Ross said. “This gives our athletes the chance to perform at home for the first time. That’s an important thing for them to perform in front of friends and family.”

Notable returning AC athletes include pole vaulter Jeremy Scott, distance runners Kevin Pool and Dan Princic, along with javelin thrower Vince Werner.

Scott qualified for the indoor Olympic Trials in 2004 and has represented the United States in several events in Europe.

Pool is currently training for the Olympic Trials in the marathon and was the first Allegheny athlete to earn All-American status in an indoor track event in 2005.

He will be running with former Allegheny assistant coach and 2003 graduate Dan Princic, who broke the school record in the 5,000-meter run in 2003 at the Penn Relays.

Werner placed seventh in the NCAA Division III Championships with a throw of 198 feet.

Also in attendance will be former Meadville Area High School standout thrower Mike Kennedy.

The distance events will be run at night under the lights beginning at 7 p.m., but the rest of the invite’s schedule will be run as normal.

Opening the day will be the field events and the sprint trials.

Finals begin at 3 p.m. with the 4x100-meter relay through the sprints and the 4x400 relay.

According to Ross, the fan-favorites will begin with the women’s pole vault with Andree Pickens, a University of Alabama graduate, at 3 p.m.

Scott will hit the vault around 6 p.m., while the men’s vault begins at 5 p.m.

And the field of milers will take the track at 8 p.m. to try to break the four-minute mark.

“Within a two-hour time frame you can see some pretty good action,” Ross said. “It’s not going to be a large meet, but the quality is going to be there. We want the fans to come out and enjoy it in a short span.”

Along with the post-collegiate athletes, current NCAA athletes will also be competing and looking for a chance at the national meet.

Included are Edinboro, Slippery Rock, IUP, Mansfield, Geneva, Westminster, Thiel, SUNY-Geneseo and most of the NCAC schools.

“If we can get it to be a three-hour event and make it exciting, those are my intentions,” Ross said.

“Over in eastern Pennsylvania you’ve got the Penn Relays and some other big events. There’s nothing in western Pennsylvania like that. It’s mostly on the high school scene here. We want to show how much fun you can have in a track meet.”



T.J. Turrisi can be reached at 724-6370 ext. 276 or by e-mail at tjturrisi@meadvilletribune.com.

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