There was a plan for indoor season. There were goals to make and benchmarks to hit. But a funny thing happened for sophomore Meghan Manley. In the process, she exceeded those goals. And then some.
The former standout at Orchard Park High School set the University at Buffalo 800-meter indoor record earlier this month, running a 2:06.97.
“I surprised myself with my season,” Manley said with a laugh. “I didn’t think it was going to go as well as it has been.”
“It’s tough to surprise me, but that surprised me,” Buffalo coach Vicki Mitchell said. “Her workouts, though, would indicate she was ready to do it.”
Through last week’s performances, Manley’s time ranks as the 20th best in NCAA Division I this indoor season, setting her up for the Mid-American Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships Friday and Saturday in Ypsilanti, Mich.
The surprises keep coming for Manley, who ran a 2:08.81 in the 800 to place fifth in the MAC outdoor championships as a freshman, earning her the team’s top newcomer honor.
“Last year, it was a whole new thing for me so I’m surprised I did as well as I did,” Manley said when describing her freshman year.
She was ready to up her game this season. The goal for indoor was to end the season running right around 2:08, or her best outdoor time from last year. That would set her up for a faster outdoor season.
“But now I’m a 2:06,” Manley said. “So everything’s changed.”
She credits her improvement to consistency in her training, the addition of strength and cross training, and a more serious, diligent attitude toward her workouts. And while she physically is getting stronger,there are some skills she already had when she arrived at UB.
“Even as a freshman, she has run with an incredible level of experience and almost wisdom in her races,” Mitchell said. “She places herself in good positions, and much of the 800-meter running is tactically running correct. She has that instinctively, which is huge, because there are some other ones who don’t.
“We do talk about it: How are we going to run from the front? What are you going to do if you get boxed in? But at some point, when you’re in that position, you can know everything and not know how to put it into play. She knows how to put it into play.”
The tactics are useful for the 800 meters,especially since it is such a unique race. Manley comes to the event as a middle distance runner. The 800 is probably the shortest event she would run.
There’s also Asia Henry, who is redshirting this indoor season. Henry had the previous UB record in the indoor 800 and last year advanced to the NCAA outdoor championships in that event.
Manley and Henry run the same event, yet they don’t train together. Henry is a sprinter and the 800 is the longest distance she will race.
“We both run 800 but we both have completely different training,” Manley said. “I’m more distance and she’s more sprint based. It’s different.
“We’ve only raced each other a few times because she redshirted this indoor season. It’s kind of different. She’s always ahead of me in the first lap. I run from behind. I don’t go out real fast and stuff like that.”
Tactics come into play at the MAC championship as well. Buffalo’s overall team performance is likely to suffer as the Bulls opted to redshirt several key athletes during this indoor season.
Along with Manley there are some individual performances from Buffalo athletes to watch for.
On the women’s side, freshman sprinter Malayah White (Mount St. Mary) is expected to be ready to go after healing a hamstring injury the last two meets. In the 400, juniors Donna Jeanty and Crystal Graham are running well.
Look for solid performances from seniors Jackie Burns (North Tonawanda) in the 800 with Manley, and Brooklynn Ventura in the hurdles.
Buffalo has always been strong in field events and this year look for possible points from pole vaulters Kelly Truppo (Alden) and Jenna Van Dusen (Lew-Port).
On the men’s side, Miles Lewis has the fastest time in the MAC this season in the 60-meter dash. He finished third in the event at last year’s meet. Jonathan Jones (Portville) has the best throw in the conference in the shot put this season.
“The MAC this year, well, every year, it just gets stronger and stronger and stronger,” Mitchell said. “Look at the descending order list of top performances. I’ve always said our conference is often referred to as a “mid major” but in track and field it’s not. We have a lot of athletes ranked in the top 20 in the U.S. right now including Meg. When you look at those performance lists, it validates how strong our conference is.”