Track And Field

Distance runners overshadow jumpers and sprinters

The number of Syracuse’s jumpers and sprinters can be counted on two hands and it’s a concerted effort by the coaching staff. The Orange is known for its distance team, and head coach Chris Fox has created that dynamic.

“We don’t even look at throwers or pole vaulters,” Fox said.

Even coming off a national championship in cross country and an Atlantic Coast Conference indoor title, where three of his hurdlers finished in the top four, Fox’s jumpers and sprinters are still overlooked. He focuses on recruiting distance runners while SU assistant coach Dave Hegland recruits hurdlers. Distance runners and hurdlers like Justyn Knight, Freddie Crittenden and Colin Bennie have become household names among the nationwide track and field community, casting a shadow over the rest of the roster.

With just four sprinters on the team, Winston Lee, a junior sprinter who finished fifth at the ACC indoor championship in the 60-meter dash, tries to manage the hand dealt to him. He has clocked the best times among the sprinters on the team and knows that he can’t slip up if he wants to get the attention he hopes for.

“I think it does bring added pressure,” Lee said of having so few sprinters, “and it is important for me to keep improving so that I don’t fly under the radar.”

If there were more on the team, Lee said he would be a better sprinter. But he also knows there’s nothing he can do about it.

Jabari Butler, the top high jumper for SU, had a similar outlook as Lee. The senior believes that adding more jumpers would be beneficial to him, especially someone better than him because it’d push him to compete to be the best.

“As you can see with the hurdlers, Freddie (Crittenden) makes the younger guys better,” Butler said.

Young runners like Chevis Armstead, Richard Floyd and David Gilstrap have Crittenden to look to for tips, training advice and competition. Butler did not have that luxury when he came to SU. Frank Taylor and Will Watson, both jumpers, helped him out when he began his high-jump career for the Orange. But Taylor and Watson weren’t high jumpers. Unlike Armstead, Floyd and Gilstrap, Butler was on his own.

Part of the reason for the makeup of the roster is because of the team’s facilities, Hegland said. High jumpers, for example, only get to actually jump in meets once a week.

Despite competing in different events, Lee and Butler are often training together. Hegland coaches the hurdlers, sprinters and jumpers. At practice the three groups often do the same exact workout.

Butler doesn’t need to be high jumping two to three times per week, Hegland said. His training is more effective working with the sprinters and hurdlers rather than individually.

The coaching staff must be upfront about the training situation when recruiting, Hegland said.

“We have to say that if you are going to come here, you’re primarily going to be training like a sprinter,” Hegland said. “And if you’re not OK with that, then this isn’t the right place to come.”

Before coming to Syracuse, Lee knew about SU’s distance program, but didn’t know much about the sprinting department. Butler didn’t even plan on being a high jumper for the Orange.

Both ended up competing for SU and both have been successful. But both remain in the shadow of the centerpiece of Syracuse’s program.

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