The University of Dallas men’s and women’s track teams spiked up for their 2021 debut on March 13 at the Ice Breaker Classic in Tyler, Texas. With only one returning runner to the program, the team unveiled almost entirely fresh talent to the SCAC track scene.
Coach Nick Schneigert said, “We are just really small compared to other teams. The biggest difference is that we have a large amount of distance athletes. Last year I only had 2 part time distance athletes, but now I have 7 full time distance athletes.”
Distance aside, on the sprints side, sophomore Sam McLard (Flower Mound) returned to run the 100-meter dash, besting his 2020 record with a wind-assisted time of 14.43 seconds. McLard was the sole Crusader to take on a sprint distance race.
Three freshmen raced in the men’s 5000-meter, against a notably competitive field. Nicholas Walz (Irvings), who was recently named SCAC men’s track and field athlete of the week, led the Crusaders with a time of 17:30.04. Jonathan Cantu (Dallas) followed Walz with a 17:46.60 and Ryan Connor (Overland Park, Kan.) crossed the line at 18:28.17.
Freshman James LaTour (Lubbock, Texas) notched a 4:47.48 for the 1500-meter run. Freshman Luke LaCour (Metairie, La.) raced both the 400-meter and the 800-meter, finishing with times of 56.58 and 2:11.84 respectively.
The women’s team, despite a slim roster, debuted 2 freshmen to collegiate track and field. Gracie Ebberwein (Wichita, Kan.), who was also recently named SCAC women’s track and field athlete of the week, raced the 5000-meter, finishing at the 21:23.5 mark. Megan Scott (Hudson, Mass.) took on the 1500-meter, running a time of 5:52.55.
Scott said: “Getting back into regular competitions after over a year of not doing so has been difficult, but the team is excited to compete again. Gracie and I have been steadily dropping our 5K times and the boys are pushing each other already. Captain Luke LaCour has been especially invaluable in guiding my fellow runners and I in our races.”
Crusader track hit the road again March 20, competing at the TSU relays in Houston, Texas.
McLard dashed a 14.97 second 100-meter and recorded a 31.36 for the 200-meter race. Freshman Max Crowder opened his collegiate track career with a 23.38 200-meter race. LaCour raced a 2:14.74 in the 800-meter.
Logan Byrum (Kingsburg, Calif.), who also plays men’s basketball, competed in shot put, posting a distance of 9.61m (31’6.5″).
Walz edged his previous 5000-meter time by a second, finishing at 17.28.97. Connor improved on his previous time by a wide margin, coming in at 18:04.47. LaTour debuted in the 5000-meter at this meet, with a time of 18.28.26. LaTour additionally raced the 1500-meter, coming in at 4:57.07.
Cantu, Crowder, LaCour and Connor debuted their 4-x-400 meter relay squad, finishing in 3.58.44.
Ebberwein notched a personal record for 5000-meter with a 21:04.59. Scott also competed in the 5000-meter, completing the race at 21:38.18.
Schneigert said: “This past Saturday at the Texas Southern relays, all of my 5000 meter athletes had seasonal PR’s or overall PR’s. Meanwhile it was the first time that my thrower, Logan Byrom, competed while Sam McClard got a PR in the 200.”
Schneigert has made major adjustments to the program to accommodate the demands of UD’s rigorous academics, sticking to morning practice for the distance squad, taking Fridays off, and prioritizing short length of travel for meets.
Schneigert, in reference to these changes, remarked that “the feedback from [the athletes] with this is very positive.”
Looking forward to the future, Schneigert is working hard to recruit athletes with phenomenal academic and athletic backgrounds. He said: “Recruiting has been great so far. Our numbers of applications and admits have doubled since last year. I even started with 2022’s early so I expect our numbers to even be more in those two categories in the future.”
“If you follow baseball, I like to consider ourselves like the 2016 Chicago Cubs. They won a world series because they started from scratch, [they] were finding athletes that [could] fit with the team. Every year they rose up the ranks. Eventually, they finally won the world series. I like to consider ourselves in the same boat. It will take a few years, but Rome wasn’t built overnight. I think we got something special going on here while I recruit high school athletes that will fit the UD culture.”