STORRS, Conn. - The UConn men's track & field team touched down in Birmingham, Ala. and is putting their final preparations in for the start of the 2018 American Athletic Conference Indoor Championship that will kick-off on Friday morning. The two-day event being held at the Birmingham CrossPlex with all the action will be streamed live on The American Digital Network.
The Huskies last claimed the crown at the 2014 AAC meet as they look to knock off the three-time defending champion Houston Cougars at this year's meet.
"We are healthy and fitter than we have been all season and I feel really good about where we are at," stated head coach Greg Roy. "We had some good performances at our last meet and we are progressing how we want to heading into this meet. Our kids have been getting better, faster, and stronger; we have made some of the improvements we need to make. I feel good about where we are at."
Husky senior and captain Michael O'Donnell (Methune, Mass.) leads UConn's distance squad and owns the top-time in the mile this indoor season, run two weeks ago at the BU Valentine Invitational, a 4:02.87 clocking. O'Donnell won this event during his freshmen season and looks for more gold while maybe threating the meet record this weekend as well.
"The team atmosphere is what will pull us through in this meet," commented O'Donnell. "No individual can win this meet. It has to be a collective effort across every single event."
Also with top-10 ranked times in the mile are juniors Kyle Barber (Fayetteville, N.Y.), 4:08.11 at the Valentine Invite, and PJ Garmon (Billerica, Mass.), 4:11.40 at the New England meet. In the 3,000 meters, O'Donnell will push for a medal as well, coming in with the second fastest time this season at 8:12.97 at the Great Dane Classic. UConn has four runners heading into the meet with top-10 rankings in the event with junior Patrick Begley (Suffield, Conn.), third at 8:14.41, sophomore Eric Van Der Els (Norwalk, Conn.) sixth at 8:23.61 and junior Michael McGonnigle (New Fairfield, Conn.) eighth at 8:24.77.
Begley and McGonnigle along with sophomore Kyle Brackman (Berkley Heights, N.J.) head into the weekend ranked among the top-10 in the 5,000 meters this season. Begley is second with a time of 14:20.22 run at the New England meet. Brackman clocked a 14:36.12 at the BU Season Opener and is sixth with McGonnigle's time of 14:38.53 at New England's puts him seventh.
In the distance medley relay, the Huskies are nearly 13 seconds ahead of the American Athletic Conference teams in the distance medley relay with a time of 9:48.97 clocked at the New England Championships.
Senior captain Trenten Beram (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.), who was named the Most Outstanding Male Track Athlete at the 2016 meet, is among the conference leaders in the 400 meters. Beram, a former champion in the 400, brings a season-best time of 47.81 seconds recorded at the Valentine Invitational two weeks that has him ranked seventh in the league.
"I think the team is in the right mind set," stated Beram. "We had good performances at our last meet and with a week off, we got some good rest, and we have everyone ready."
The 800 meters figures to be a highly competitive affair and UConn rookie Tyler Gleen (Trumbull, Conn.) comes into the weekend tied for the fastest time this season in the event. Gleen ran a 1:50.30 at the BU Season Opener and is tied with ECU's Stefano Migliorati for the best in the league coming in.
UConn's 4x400 relay team enters the championship meet with the fourth fastest time posted this season, coming at the New England Championships, a 3:16.03 clocking.
In the field, UConn will have plenty of chances to score with junior Malik Snead (Trenton, N.J.) leading the way in the long jump and triple jump. Snead holds the top-distance in both events heading into the weekend and also ranks among the best jumps in the NCAA this season.
At the UConn multi-event meet, Snead set a new school record with a leap of 7.67 meters (25'2"), giving him the 25th longest distance recorded in the NCAA thus far. In the triple, he leads the conference and is 17th nationally with a distance of 15.84 meters (51'11.75") recorded at the BU Season Opener. Sophomores Nile Uzzell (Somerset, N.J.) and Ivan Nyemeck (Quebec City, Quebec) both have top-10 distances this season in the triple jump. Uzzell posted a 14.71 meters (48'3.25" at the BU Season Opener to rank seventh and Nyemeck posted a distance of 14.52 meters (47'7.75") at the New England meet to rank eighth.
A pair of UConn freshmen in Daniel Claxton (Long Island, N.Y.) and Scott Safir (Greenwich, Conn.) rank second and third, respectively, in the high jump headed into this weekend. Claxton had a season-best height of 2.09 meters (6'10.25") at the New England Championships and followed by Safir who cleared the height of 2.08 meters (6'9.75") at the BU Season Opener.
In the pole vault, the Huskies will be bolstered by the return of senior Craig Hunter (Robbinsville, N.J.) to the line-up. After posting a height of 5.05 meters (16'6.75") at the season opening event at BU, he has been sidelined with an injury. He currently ranks fifth among the league's pole vaulters. Junior Ian Bergere (Madison, Conn.) is eighth in the rankings with a height of 5.00 meters (16'4.75") recorded at the Columbia Challenge.
The weight throw has two Huskies ranked inside the top-10 heading into the weekend led by junior Sebastian Castro (Crestkill, N.J.). Castro is seventh with a throw of 18.50 meters (60'8.5") at the Columbia Challenge. In ninth is Cameron Thompson (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.), who has a season-best throw of 17.74 meters (58'2.5"), also at Columbia.
Friday's events will kick off with the heptathlon on Friday morning followed by trials on the track starting at 12:15 pm with the mile. The 5,000 meters and distance medley relay will be contested on Friday. In the field, pole vault starts things off at noon and is followed by long jump, weight throw, high jump and long jump on day one.
UCONN OFFICIAL STORE
UCONN OFFICIAL AUCTIONS