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Eyeing a strong start to the outdoor season, men’s track and Field was provided with nearly perfect conditions at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., last week. A trio of personal-best performances from senior sprinter and captain Carrington Akosa, sophomore hurdler and sprinter Joey Daniels, and junior thrower Adam Kelly were the highlights of a very promising first meet.

At the Spring Break Invitational, Kelly was arguably the performer of the meet. The 2018 Ivy League Indoor champion dropped a bomb in the hammer throw, blowing away the field with a mark of 69.68m. His throw was more than 15m beyond that of the second place competitor, and it places him sixth in the entire NCAA this year.

Kelly has made the NCAA National Championships in both of his previous two years at Princeton, but his Florida opener indicates that 2018 could be especially fruitful. Despite a preceding week of hard weight-lifting and throwing practice, Kelly looked strong and fast, pivoting through his four-turn technical sequence before releasing the 16-pound metal ball into orbit. Head coach Fred Samara punched the air as he saw the hammer land virtually on the 70m line, but — despite the personal record — an animated Kelly called out to Samara that the last turn could have been that little bit better. As the outdoor season progresses, Kelly will look to refine the technical aspects of his throw and become even sharper, pursuing conference and regional success. Ultimately, Kelly’s goal is to compete for the NCAA National title this June at the historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Personal records also fell on the North Florida track. Akosa capitalized on the good conditions to run 10.46 seconds in the 100m and 21.07s in the 200m, two personal records and Ivy League-leading times. Meanwhile, Daniels decided it was time to reset his own school record in the 110m event. Testing a new seven-step approach to the first hurdle — something rare for college athletes, who mainly take eight-step approaches — he was matched by a Clemson athlete until the fourth barrier. However, a specialist in the longer, 10-barrier-long outdoors event, Daniels eased away to take the win comfortably. His time of 13.88s places him first in the Ivy League and 11th in the NCAA. 

Looking at the race result with a hint of disappointment, Daniels explained that while “it was important to get the win and gain confidence with the new seven-step approach,” he “wanted to open a little faster.” These frustrations emphasize the big ambitions he has for the upcoming season, in which he’ll look to gain Ivy League glory and represent Princeton nationally in Oregon.

There were also strong performances from Princeton’s reliable team captains, as senior Mitchel Charles took second in the shot put and senior August Kiles won the pole vault. The younger Tigers backed up these results, as — making their outdoor debuts — first-year throwers Kelton Chastulik and Robbie Otal demonstrated their potential for greatly successful college careers, placing third in the shot put and second in discus.   

Having traveled to Florida for a training trip, the Tigers’ focus was on using spring break to work hard and transition from indoor to outdoor track and field.

“The spring trip is a very important part of our preparation for the outdoor season,” Samara explained.  He said the trip served as a chance to “work on events we don’t do during the indoor season, such as 400m hurdles, hammer, discus and the 4x100m relay.”

With a week of good work behind them, and several strong competitive performances, the Tigers now move on to the outdoor season with great confidence. This weekend, in Raleigh, N.C., the distance runners open up outdoors, where they’ll look to build on the momentum established in Florida.

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