Personal bests are motivators for most athletes, but for the University of Indianapolis mens and womens track and field teams, there is a bigger one: Throwing Coach Randy Ziraldo.
Ziraldo spent four seasons with the Greyhounds before he passed away on Feb. 12.
While Ziraldo was in and out of the hospital, graduate assistant Tatiana Zhuravleva and volunteer assistant Matt Royer, both alums, took over coaching the throwers. Head Track and Field Coach Scott Fangman said that while Ziraldo had not been physically present, he was still able to participate and lead the team up until the day he passed away.
Fortunately for us, when he was not present, he was still kind of present. With modern technology, we were able to Skype [with him], Fangman said. He officially stopped coaching in mid-January, and thats when Tatiana and Matt took over, but he would still mentor them [the throwers]. He was helping us up until literally the Friday he passed away. He was giving coaching advice and [had] reviewed video for two hours on that Thursday.
Ziraldo passed away at 1 p.m., and the team was in the Athletics and Recreation Center practicing by 2:30 p.m. Fangman said that is the way Ziraldo would have wanted it.
Some folks asked me, Why are you guys doing that? And I said Because thats what he would have done, Fangman said. A lot of us compete in athletics for an entirely different reason than what some others think, and that is to relieve stress. We all have stress in our lives, and there is no greater stress than death itself. It was a way we could cope. We all coped by coming to work … were all trying to live his legacy one day at a time.
On Feb. 19-20 the Greyhounds were in three different states. The majority of the team was in Columbus, Ohio for the Buckeye Tune-Up. A group of the distance runners traveled to the University of Illinois for the Orange & Blue Open, and a handful of field athletes traveled to DePauw University for the DePauw Indoor Classic.
For the men at the Buckeye Tune-Up, junior Eli Stidd earned second in the 60 meter hurdles. Freshman DeAndre Bluitt found himself in third place for the high jump.
Headlining the DePauw Indoor Classic was freshman Antwan Martin who took first in the 600 meter run. Junior Vincent Ziraldo also took first in the weight throw. Fellow junior Shaquelle Lewis earned runner up in the shot put with junior Stavros Stavrou taking third. Junior Collin Craft took third in the triple jump.
On Feb. 12, the mens and womens teams competed at the Indiana Hoosier Hills in Bloomington. The following day, the teams competed at the UIndy Tom Hathaway Distance Carnival. Senior thrower Andrew Archer said that while Ziraldo was on his mind during the meet, he made sure to follow what his coach would have wanted.
All of us had a very heavy heart going into that meet, for sure. But you know, our coach really left a legacy for us, and with that legacy we have to move on. So with conference coming up, we need to continue to follow that and our path towards success. Weve got to continue what he wanted us to do and just give our absolute best, Archer said.
The teams are heading into the Great Lakes Valley Conference Indoor Championship meet next week, and Archer said that as a senior, he hopes to lead the team and himself to finish well.
I feel like Ive had to step up as a leader. Not having our coach here all the time, Ive done my best to try and keep people on a straight path. Ive just tried to keep a very positive attitude through it all and push everyone to keep a positive mentality, Archer said. Personally, Im hoping to hit that first, second or third mark. I want to peak, just like coach wanted all of us to do, around conference. And I think we will.
The Greyhounds will travel to Kenosha, Wisc., for the GLVC Indoor Championships from Feb. 27-28.