Confident, experienced indoor track and field team takes on 2017

Katie+Guarnaccia+competes+at+the+2016+SPIRE+Invitational+on+Feb.+6+in+Geneva%2C+Ohio.+The+junior+distance+runner+hopes+to+return+to+the+NAIA+Indoor+National+Championships+this+season.
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Confident, experienced indoor track and field team takes on 2017

Katie Guarnaccia competes at the 2016 SPIRE Invitational on Feb. 6 in Geneva, Ohio. The junior distance runner hopes to return to the NAIA Indoor National Championships this season.

Katie Guarnaccia competes at the 2016 SPIRE Invitational on Feb. 6 in Geneva, Ohio. The junior distance runner hopes to return to the NAIA Indoor National Championships this season.

Photo by Liz Berie | Point Park Athletics

Katie Guarnaccia competes at the 2016 SPIRE Invitational on Feb. 6 in Geneva, Ohio. The junior distance runner hopes to return to the NAIA Indoor National Championships this season.

Photo by Liz Berie | Point Park Athletics

Photo by Liz Berie | Point Park Athletics

Katie Guarnaccia competes at the 2016 SPIRE Invitational on Feb. 6 in Geneva, Ohio. The junior distance runner hopes to return to the NAIA Indoor National Championships this season.

Written By Robert Berger, Co-Sports Editor

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After finishing the 2016 season second to rival Rio Grande in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) championship, the Pioneers have high hopes for the 2017 indoor track and field season.

Four athletes have already qualified for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Indoor Track and Field National Championship.

The Pioneers opened its season at the Youngstown State Icebreaker on Dec. 2. Sophomore transfer student Anna Shields made her debut in a Pioneer uniform and placed first in the 1000 meters, finishing with a time of 2 minutes, 56 seconds.

She also ran in the one mile race, placing second with a time of 4 minutes, 57 seconds.

This was the first time a Pioneer has ever finished the mile race in under five minutes. Shields reached the A qualifying standard in these events, which secures her spot at the NAIA Indoor National Championship March 2-4 in Johnson City, Tenn.

“The team is looking great,” Shields said. “If we run what we’re capable of, and even being conservative about our times, we should definitely qualify for the women’s distance medley relay.”

On the men’s side, three athletes reached the B qualifying standard in the men’s triple jump at the YSU Icebreaker. Freshman Tyler Carter made his college debut and placed first overall in the event with a 14.05 meter jump.

“I knew Carter was something special coming into the year,” head coach Kelly Parsley said. “He’s been a state champion in Pennsylvania before so it’s not surprising he qualified early on. We also have a great coach, Julia Koloski, who’s been working closely with our jumpers.”

Finishing behind Carter were juniors Shaun Berry and Jryi Davis, who placed second and third respectively.

At the end of the season, Parsley has the choice to send three B level qualifying athletes from each team to the National Championship. B qualifiers also have the opportunity to reach the A level throughout the season.

Davis and Berry both qualified for the National Championship in 2016. Parsley expects their experience will give them an advantage when competing.

Sophomore Andre Lowery also had a record-breaking day. Lowery finished fourth overall in the long jump with a 6.72 meter jump. This beat the previous school record of 6.71 meters.

2017 is the third year of the Pioneers track and field program. Parsley felt the team was competitive the past two years, even when the results did not match.

Parsley expressed the team was very strong on the track but fell short in field events. The shot put made the difference between first and second place against Rio Grande in last year’s tournament.

Confident in his athletes, Parsley expects more of them to qualify for nationals throughout the season.

Junior Katie Guarnaccia is one of those athletes. Guarnaccia has qualified for nationals six times in her career at Point Park between cross country and track and field.

She finished 11th in the nation in the outdoor 10,000 meters at last year’s NAIA Outdoor National Championship.

Junior and captain McKenzie Wilson is also expected to have a standout year.

“Wilson has become a whole different runner,” Parsley said. “Her improvement has been amazing and I know she’ll have a big year for us.”

Parsley noted that redshirt freshman Taylor Celich should also make make an immediate impact on the team this year.

“I’m very excited about this season,” Celich said. “We did well last year and finished second, but we brought in some stronger field athletes so we should be stronger all around this year. We’re training hard so hopefully if we stay healthy, great things will happen.”

One obstacle the Pioneers face is the lack of an indoor training facility. The team makes the best of what it has, using the university gym and Youngstown State’s indoor facilities.

“That’s what makes our kids who qualified for nationals even more amazing,” Parsley said. “We don’t have facilities to practice in every day like other schools have.”

Guarnaccia agrees with her coach.

“Cross Country goes until the end of November for me so I don’t have much of an offseason before track,” Guarnaccia said. “I’d say it is an advantage though because it keeps your stamina up for sure.”

While the past two years for the Pioneer track and field team have been focused on development, Parsley expects the coming years to be very successful.

“I haven’t graduated anyone yet so we’ll have a really good team next year, but it’s also about recruiting those pieces we need,” Parsley said. “My focus is recruiting more women because their team is much smaller. I’m also trying to get more throwers on the men’s side as well.”

The Pioneers’ next meet is Jan. 20 at the Youngstown State Invitational.

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