• EDITOR’S NOTE: On Campus features graduates of area high schools who are performing athletically in college, and it appears weekly during the school year. If you know of someone who could be featured here, contact Mirza Zukic by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (724) 465-5555, ext. 267.
Alex Woodrow has only one goal this season, and exactly one chance to reach it. Such is life for a 10,000-meter specialist.
A long-distance runner on the Duquesne men’s track and field team, Woodrow had one thing in mind as he began his junior outdoor season Friday, and that was reaching the NCAA East Regional for the second straight season. If he can do that, Woodrow will give himself a chance to qualify for the NCAA Division I Championships in early June, and that’s all he can ask for.
“That’s basically the equivalent of making the NCAA tournament in basketball,” Woodrow said. “That was kind of the goal this year. It still is the goal, to make it back to regionals. Once you’re there, you never know what could happen, like the NCAA tournament. We’ll see in the next month or so.”
A 10,000-meter specialist for the Dukes, Woodrow reached the East Regional as a sophomore last season, and he placed 22nd in the 48-man race to miss qualifying for the NCAA Championships by 10 places.
The Marion Center graduate wants to get back there, but he’s giving himself just one chance to qualify.
As he continues to recover from an injury he suffered during the indoor season, Woodrow is essentially using the regular season as a long training session in his recovery process.
Woodrow doesn’t much care if he wins every regular-season race or none of them. In fact, as long as he’s feeling better with every mile he covers, he won’t lose sleep over performances like Friday’s 19th-place finish out of 37 finishers in the 3,000 at the Colonial Relays hosted by William & Mary College.
Woodrow’s entire outdoor season is a series of moves with one goal in mind: get back to the regionals.
“It’s not where I want to be,” Woodrow said after running an 8:51.99 in the 3,000 on Friday night. “That wasn’t really good, but our goal for the season is to kind of get healthy in the next three weeks, put the mileage in and get some good workouts in and just get ready for the conference meet.”
“The only goal really is the 10K. These races I’m running now like the 3K and the 5K, these races are just going to gear me up for the 10K. Especially, since I’m coming off an injury, we’re keeping it light until I can be 100 percent healthy. … The 10K is definitely my focus.”
With no dual meets on their schedule, Woodrow and the Dukes see about five live competitions each outdoor season prior to the Atlantic-10 Conference Championships.
That’s just how it is at the college level, Woodrow said, and that’s why he only has one chance to qualify for regionals, at the A-10 Championships May 3-4.
“It just takes such a long time for your body to recover from the 10,000,” he said.
That’s the only time all season Woodrow will run his marquee event. It might sound strange to some unfamiliar with track and field, but “that’s just kind of what we do,” Woodrow countered.
That seems to put a whole lot of pressure on one race, but it’s no different than the pressure Woodrow places on himself to perform well.
“I’d like to think I’m mentally tough,” he said. “I know (running the 10,000 once) puts pressure on me, but I’m used to that because I put pressure on myself to do well. I don’t need an outside source putting pressure on me. But at the same time, if I don’t accomplish it, I’ll live with it knowing I have one more year to come back and try to make it to nationals.”
During the indoor season, Woodrow competed at only three meets, and he ran the 5,000 twice and 3,000 once.
In fact, every competitive race he runs leading up to the Atlantic 10 Outdoor Championships will be 3,000 and 5,000 meters, only meant to be tune-ups for the 10,000 at the A-10 meet.
“We don’t like to race a whole lot. We like to get quality workouts in, quality meets where we get good miles. You don’t race a whole lot, but when you get those opportunities, you have to capitalize,” Woodrow said.
Woodrow became just the sixth Duquesne male runner in program history to qualify for regionals last season.
“It’s actually been a lot of fun,” Woodrow said of his time a Duquesne so far, “just the fact that I’m some kid from Indiana, competing at the Division I level, going up against guys who have accomplished a lot more than me but I’ve been able to compete with them. Hopefully I represent the university and represent my hometown the best I can.”
“It’s humbled me a lot just to see what kind of athletes are out there. You go from being a big fish in a small pond to one of the littlest fish in the big ocean. It’s been a life learning experience for sure.”
JORDAN BRITCHER, VINCE MURPHY AND MIKE PANCHIK (Saint Vincent, baseball): Three area products play for the Bearcats, who are off to a 9-11 start this season, and two of the local players are regulars in the Saint Vincent rotation.
An Indiana graduate, Britcher is a mainstay in the Bearcats’ lineup as a senior. A designated hitter/outfielder, he has appeared in 16 of the Bearcats’ 20 games and entered the weekend batting .340 (16-for-47) with a pair of doubles. He is tied for third on the team with 11 runs scored and ranks fourth with nine RBIs. Britcher also ranks second on the team in walks and has a .446 on-base percentage.
Britcher, who pitched for the Bearcats as a freshman, is a career .321 hitter (52-for-162) and has a career .421 on-base percentage. He rarely goes down on strikes, with only 26 strikeouts in 65 career games.
A junior outfielder, Murphy has struggled to get going this season after leading the team in hitting as a sophomore in 2013. Murphy is batting .250 (11-for-44) in 16 games, including 15 starts, with one extra-base hit and seven RBIs. The team leader in walks (9), he sports a respectable .433 on-base percentage and he has a team-high six stolen bases. Last season, he led the team with a .351 batting average (39-for-111).
A Derry graduate, Murphy is a steady presence defensively. In 34 chances this season, he’s committed one errors and has a .971 fielding percentage. In 61 career games, he’s committed just two errors.
A sophomore right-handed relief pitcher, Panchik has appeared in four games for the Bearcats this season and ranks second on the team in ERA (2.79). The Homer-Center graduate has given up 12 hits and four runs (three earned) in 9 2-3 innings this season.
Panchik (1-0), who appeared in just one game as a freshman last season, earned his first career win this week with 3 1-3 scoreless innings in Saint Vincent’s 16-8 win over Geneva on Tuesday.
JOHN JONES and TY FERLIN (Westminster, baseball): A pair of Ligonier Valley graduates, Jones and Ferlin are regulars in the Titans’ lineup. While Ferlin is struggling to find his groove in his first season of college baseball, Jones is ripping the cover off the ball early in the season.
A junior third baseman/pitcher, Jones has started 16 of the Titans’ 17 games, and he’s batting a team-leading .458 (22-for-48). He ranks second on the team with 10 RBIs, and he leads Westminster in slugging percentage (.563) and on-base percentage (.544).
Despite being a staple in the Titans’ order as a freshman, Ferlin has struggled at the plate. The second baseman has started all 17 games, but he is just 6-for-39 for a batting average of .154. Ferlin has a team-leading 13 strikeouts. In 45 fielding chances this season, he’s committed just two errors for a fielding percentage of .972.
CHRISTINE HENDERSON (Seton Hill, softball): The former Ligonier Valley standout is a force to be reckoned with in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
A do-it-all junior, Henderson is the Griffins’ top pitcher and their best hitter. In 20 games this season, she’s hitting .456 (31-for-68) with a team-leading 18 RBIs. A first baseman when she isn’t pitching, she also leads the team in on-base percentage (.479) and ranks second in slugging percentage (.618).
Seton Hill’s No. 1 starter, Henderson has a 6-3 record in 12 games this season, including eight starts. She has given up 50 hits and only 11 walks in 57 innings, has a team-low 2.58 ERA and struck out 67 batters. Opponents are hitting .238 against her.
She was named the PSAC West Pitcher of the Week two weeks ago.
In its first season of competing in the PSAC, Seton Hill (13-7) visits IUP on April 19.