Friday, May 29, 2009

University of Albany steeplechase runner Estremera Makes It To NCAA Regionals - UAlbany Sports 2009

ALBANY -- Three years ago, Ricardo Estremera volunteered for an event that can break many runners.

He approached his University at Albany coaches about attempting the 3,000-meter steeplechase. It's among the most grueling undertakings in track and field with seven painful laps that demand competitors to clear 28 hurdles and seven water pits.

"It's an event not that many people want to do," Estremera, a senior, explained this week. "It's extremely hard and it's very technical."

To that point of his sophomore year, Estremera was a cross country standout who focused on the 800 and 1,500 during track season.

Nevertheless, the Puerto Rican gave steeplechase a shot because the 2006 America East Conference meet was only weeks away. He wanted to help the Great Danes by earning a few extra points.

Estremera, who had never jumped over hurdles, won his first race in a meet at RPI. Then he placed third in the conference championship as UAlbany rolled to the league title.

He decided he liked steeplechase enough to do it regularly. That's led Estremera to the NCAA East Regional, where he'll compete Saturday night at North Carolina A&T. He's among a UAlbany record 18 athletes in this regional.

"It's more entertaining, even though it's way harder and way more exhausting than any other race I ever ran," he said. "I have a lot of fun doing it."

Estremera ranks fourth in the East after posting a school-record time of 8 minutes, 48.47 seconds at the IC4A meet at Princeton two weeks ago. A top-five finish this weekend will guarantee Estremera his first berth in the NCAA Championships at the University of Arkansas on June 10-13.

UAlbany assistant coach Craig McVey, a former Kansas State steeplechaser, said Estremera is helped by his cross country background because it requires the same blend of strength and endurance.

"The hill training you do for cross country really translates into being a good steeplechaser," McVey said. "Anybody that's run a steeplechase knows that when you finish, it feels similar to running a cross country race."

Which is usually a feeling of exhaustion that requires mental toughness to overcome. Estremera displayed that grit in his junior year when he fell into the final water pit but still recovered to win the 2007 America East title.

He had to redshirt last year when he suffered an injury to the Iliotibial band in his right thigh, which in turn caused knee pain.

Estremera was determined to come back for a fifth year. He worked over the summer as a cashier at Lowe's Home Improvement as he stayed with his girlfriend on Long Island.

He needed to save money to pay this year's rent because he's on a partial scholarship.

"I'm pretty serious when it comes to being successful and accomplishing my goals," he explained. "I'll work really hard for it."


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