By Accaiya Evans, Broadside Correspondent

The men’s and women’s track and field program at George Mason University has a rich tradition and a successful history.

In the past, the men’s and women’s teams were separate programs, with a separate set of coaches and two different itineraries each season. Practicing together was not common, and traveling together was taboo, but they supported each other during their spare time.

This current season is the third season since the two programs joined forces, and it has brought much success to the unification of each team.

Meet the coach
Assistant Coach Abigi Id-Deen is in his fourth year as a coach here at Mason. He experienced one year with just the men’s program and has been a part of the merger ever since.

In the sport of track and field, every team has a few athletes that stand out amongst competition, and those who perform well in individual sports. But the track program at Mason has been successful across the board thus far this season.

According to Id-Deen, there have been many factors that have played a major part in the speedy success of the newly combined team.

The team ranges evenly from freshmen to seniors; however, the coach credited most of the success to the growth and maturity he sees overall.

“This year’s combination of athletes is much better than before,” said Id-Deen. “This group has been by far the best group since I joined the coaching staff at Mason.”

Unlike before, the team has been able to place quality athletes in almost every event.

They have had two and three competitors, both men and women, respectively, in most events including the pole vault and all of the jumps.

The depth of the team has been another key factor as it allowed the women to place third in the indoor ECAC Invitational and the men to place second, only losing by four points, in the IC4A Invitational.

During the indoor season, both of these track meets are the last on the schedule and are ultimately an athlete’s highest level of competition.

Mason has had participants leave their mark in several events; however they have proven themselves well in the mile relay on both the men’s and women’s teams.

The mile relay, also known as the 4×400-meter relay, has always been a favored event to watch and coach over the years. Id-Deen has had the daunting task of putting together the mile relay team.

One cannot just throw together the best four athletes on the track when it comes to this event. One athlete may have performed better during the previous week.

A big meet brings a lot of pressure, and all athletes run differently in different situations, which ultimately affects the outcome of a relay.

The combination of runners on a relay team can change from day to day, and sometimes a decision is made only hours before the event. However, coach Id-Deen has thus far successfully put together both great men’s and women’s teams.

The men’s team finished the indoor season 7th overall in the country when they participated in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships back in March. The women’s team is currently ranked 14th in the country during this outdoor season.

Meet the runners
Two consistent participants of the men’s and women’s mile relay teams are juniors Kevin Wilson and Tiara Swindell. They are both key assets to their respective teams.

Swindell believes that the team’s chemistry and focus, regardless of what four athletes are on the relay, is key to what they have accomplished so far.

Swindell brings versatility to her team as she runs the second leg of the relay during the indoor season and the anchor leg during the outdoor season.
When running the second leg of the relay, her main focus is positioning the team to win. When running the anchor leg, she must focus on having a strong finish.

“As far as being the anchor leg, you have to leave everything you have all on the track for the team no matter the circumstances,” said Swindell. “Track athletes are the first to have all this passion, but then the first to have bodily ailments.”

Wilson, a strong force on the men’s side, attributed the team’s success to each individual on the relay. Wilson likes how every individual holds himself accountable and knows that members of the team are depended on by others to do well overall. Wilson is always the first leg on the mile relay team.

Wilson sees his role as setting the team up, as well as placing them in great position to win. Wilson, honored as the GoMason athlete of the month for March, was a part of the successful mile relay team at the Indoor NCAA Championship meet.

“We are more like a family and brothers than just teammates,” said Wilson. “This is the key to our team chemistry, which contributes to our overall success. Before each race, we always say ‘Let’s go put Mason on the map.’”

Both the men’s and women’s mile relay teams look forward to their best performances this year as they will compete in the upcoming Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.

The CAA meet will be held here at Mason on April 30 and May 1.