Nobody is more excited and energetic for this coming track and field season than the track and field head coach Ryan Heberling. The former FIU standout believes that this could be his best team so far in the seven years as a head coach. His enthusiasm and his expectations has definitely have an effect on the athletes. Well of course if you have a few freshman breaking school records in long jumps, studs in throws and explosives sprinters that could consistently finish in the top three in both men and women’s side, but he made it clear to his team, including the freshmen, that C-USA is not a walk-in-the-park conference.
“In the beginning we let the team know how good our conference is,” said Heberling. “I reiterated the team that C-USA has teams that won the national championship coming out of our conference five years running. I didn’t want the freshmen to think that winning the conference was their statement. They have to work their butts off to score points in the conference.
In the indoor league, it’s basically a taste of what to expect before the Panthers have to compete in the outdoors early March. Heberling was impressed by the team’s performance last week’s meet at University of Clemson’s Purple and Orange classic, and felt that they are destined to compete in the big stage. For example, in the women’s long jump, freshman Clarissa Cutliff finished in first place last week with a school record and personal best 1.75m. According to Heberling, with that record alone, it could qualify her to compete in the C-USA championship. He also believes that if she puts up similar numbers going forward, she could compete in the World Junior Championship.
Heberling not only takes pride on his team’s performance on the track and field, but he strongly takes pride on the team’s performance in the classroom. Academics has always been the top priority for his team every season. He wrote and kept his team goals in what it takes to have a successful season. His number goal for his athletes is to maintain at least a 3.1 GPA average. Luka Mustafic, Panther’s shot put thrower, received all-academic honors last semester awarded by the USTFCCCA. The Croatia native not only is one of the team’s workhorse as a thrower, he managed to balance his school work by finishing his undergraduate degree with a 3.9 GPA and currently working on his M.A. in International Relations. Not to mention he could arguably be the strongest athlete on campus. According to Coach Heberling, he could compete for his country with abilities and strength as a thrower.
“A guy like that is the easiest kid to coach on the team because you don’t have to do much.” Said Heberling.” “I wish the whole team can be like that. He understands why he’s here. He’s going to get a good degree, a great job, and he’s like a popular kid.”
The Panthers will travel to New York this weekend on February 5th to compete in the Armory Invitational.