New year, new leaders for men’s track

Philip Zoppi – Sports Writer

Southern men’s track and field team has a new group of leaders heading into the start of the indoor season.

One of the greatest athletes to ever come through the ranks of Southern’s track and field program graduated last year —Michael Lee.

Lee holds the long and triple jump record in program history. Head coach John Wallin believes Lee will be missed greatly this season and moving forward.

“He’s still here and hangs around, but as an athlete you can’t replace his presence,” Wallin said. “He was a beast —just a straight up beast.”

One of the players who will try to replace Lee from last year is junior captain Yakabu Ibrahim. Wallin also named Dieter Gutbrod and Luke Velez captains.

As a sophomore, Ibrahim was an All-American in the 60 hurdles but this season he has his sights set on a bigger goal.

“I want to win an individual national title,” said Ibrahim. “I want to break some school records along the way, win a conference with my team, and go to world championships later on in the season.”

 Even though Ibrahim has set high standards for himself and the team, he also understands, like Wallin, that seniors such as Lee and Tresley Dupont will be hard to replace from last season.

“Losing Mike and Tresley was huge for our team,” said Ibrahim. “They were both conference, New England champs, and All-Americans for the team. They’re big shoes to fill. With our new group of athletes they now have something to chase.”

That new group of athletes features 20 freshmen this year. The roster has turned over quite a bit from a season ago. Wallin is expecting contributions from his freshman class, but understands that it might take a while for them to adjust to the college game.

“We have a really good group of freshmen with varying degrees of abilities,” said Wallin. “With the younger guys they probably need a couple of years to develop. All freshman, regardless of ability level, struggle the first three months of their college athletic career. It’s so different and so much more intense.”

Someone who might be helping those freshmen adjust to the game is Dupont. Dupont graduated last season, but is now serving as an assistant coach for the team. The knowledge that Dupont could pass onto the team could really help them, as he was extremely successful during his time as a player.

Dupont was an All-American in the weight and hammer throw last season. Wallin was happy to bring Dupont back to the team in a coaching role.

“Tresley is helping us with the throws and he’s doing a fantastic job,” said Wallin. “He has a great attitude, he’s a good competitor, a real smart guy, and a hard worker.”

The indoor season is scheduled to get under way on Dec. 2 for Southern. In that meet, the Owls will participate in the Elm City Challenge where they placed first last year.

However, Wallin still believes that his team will have more success in the second half of the season when they reach the outdoor season.

“Outdoor,” said Wallin, referring to when his team will perform better, “we’re more diverse, and the indoor schedule is a very compact schedule, so we cover a lot more events outdoor. Indoors are too condensed.”

After their season opener on Dec. 2, the team will stay in the New Haven area for their James Barber Wilton Alumni meet on Dec. 4.

\Additionally, Ibrahim will have his chance at an individual national title this year in Birmingham, Ala. —where the NCAA Division II Championships will be held.

Photo Courtesy: SCSU Athletic Communications

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