Three years ago on a visit to Georgetown, football recruit Kenny Mitchell saw the track and field Big East trophies that litter McDonough Gymnasium and could only think of helping the team win more. A standout in football, basketball, baseball and track in high school, Mitchell always dreamed of playing football and running track in college. True to reputation, Georgetown had a solid distance program, but the sprints were almost completely annihilated. Mitchell knew he could be of help.

“I knew they didn’t have much,” Mitchell said. “I just came in and told the track coaches that I was willing to come in and work hard and help them start up a sprint program. They gave me a shot and I’m grateful for that.”

itchell has taken full advantage of that opportunity, evolving from a raw talent into a refined sprinter and team captain who now leads a young group of freshmen in revitalizing Georgetown’s sprint program. The Larry Ellis Invitational at Princeton this past weekend was evidence of their progress thus far, as the 4×100-meter relay team of Mitchell and freshmen Sean Suber, Spenser Carter and Chris Kinney, took first with a school record 40.19 seconds.

For the Hoyas, Suber, Carter and Kinney are the type of talented freshmen that the sprint program have needed for years. Many factors brought the freshmen into the fold: the persistent recruiting of Assistant Coach Scott McLeod, the presence of upperclassmen Mitchell and junior Terrell Gissendanner, the lure a prestigious academic program and a re-haul of the track facilities.

“When they were recruiting us, you could see that they wanted us to be the foundation,” Suber explained.

“Without Coach Scott McLeod, I don’t think that any of us would be here right now,” Mitchell added, crediting his coach’s efforts both on the track and the recruiting trail.

So far this year, the addition of the freshmen have paid dividends as the Hoyas made the small steps necessary to start rebuilding the program. Carter, the anchor of the 4x100m, is a legitimate threat to score points in both the 100m and 200m, and Suber adds the depth needed for relays, while also running a solid 400m. Kinney has made his impact felt in the 110m hurdles, another event where the Hoyas have been missing points as of late. Running consistently through both indoor and outdoor, Kinney broke the school record in the 110m hurdles this past weekend, posting an NCAA regional qualifying time of 14.19.

“The thing that I like is that they’re talented, but they’re just good, hard-working guys, and I think they’re going to end up being really good,” Head Coach Pat Henner said.

Perhaps where the freshmen make their impact felt most is in practice, where they give each other and Mitchell the same healthy competition during sprints that has been a mark of the distance squad for years.

“When you’re practicing by yourself, you have nothing to gauge yourself on. The competition is making everybody compete and making everybody do better,” Mitchell explained.

For Mitchell, a slot receiver and kick returner on the football team, this past weekend was his first time running on the 4x100m of the season, as he could not compete during spring football. His return sparked the best out of the freshmen, who had been eagerly awaiting his return.

“Kenny coming back kind of got me pumped,” Kinney said. “I was like `Alright. We’re going to drop this time, we’re going to do good,'”

“He’s definitely the glue that held that team together. He’s the captain, and it’s recognized by the rest of the guys on the team that he is a leader,” Henner added.

The sprinters’ quick times this weekend and consistent performance throughout the season also serve as a means of attracting other recruits.

“It’s kind of one of these things where the rich get richer, and it’s a very slow process at first, getting the right people in place. [But] we’re starting to demonstrate that we have the ability to be very good in those areas, and I think that will eventually have a snowball effect to help us get even better,” Henner said.

Throughout the season, the sprinters have enveloped the same message that Henner has on the future of the program, believing that this is the year that it all turns around. The quartet of Mitchell and the freshmen have come to embrace Assistant Coach Shelia Burrell’s mantra of “there’s something special happening at Georgetown.” Wanting to make a mark on the first year of the turnaround, the sprinters have adopted a set of lofty goals that include an all-American 4x100m performance at Nationals.

“We really think that this is the foundation point, and hopefully we can make the spring program a force to be reckoned with not only in the Big East, but in the nation for years to come,” Mitchell said. “It’s kind of neat that it pretty much started with this group right here.”

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Hoya Notes:

– Displaying their mid-distance depth, the men posted four NCAA regional qualifying times in the 1500m. The Hoyas were led by junior Andrew Bumbalough who took first in a time of 3:40.22, while senior Matt Debole was a step behind, taking third in 3:40.73. Sophomore Sandy Roberts and redshirt junior Michael Banks were eighth and ninth, respectively. Bumbalough and Debole’s times stand as the second- and third-fastest times in the nation, respectively. “I think the biggest thing was that it’s nice to have two guys ranked that high in the country right now,” Henner said.

– Senior Shane Young ran well in the 3000m steeplechase, taking first with an NCAA regional qualifying time of 8:57.41. Young’s time stands as the 10th fastest in the country to date. “It was definitely a breakthrough performance. … He just has to keep that same strategy in mind each time when he races, and just kind of let it come. It wasn’t like he was setting out to run 8:57, it just happened for him, and I think that’s what’s going to work well,” Henner said.

– Redshirt sophomore Avril Ogrodnick placed third in the 1500m, locking down the final NCAA regional qualifying time with a mark of 4:25.65.

– Competing out west at the Mt. SAC Relays, redshirt sophomore Levi Miller ran down an NCAA regional time in the 5000m, taking ninth in 13:57.63.

– Senior Ashley Hubbard ran a strong 800m, taking second and posting an NCAA regional qualifying time of 2:09.21.

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