ACPHS In The News

Panthers Speed Things Up on the Track

Track and Field team members running on the track at Albany Academy
February 23, 2024

It was a record-breaking indoor season for Panthers Track and Field. Eleven athletes beat prior school records in 10 different events in the six-week season that ended earlier this month.

Some of the 40-plus team members were breaking records they themselves had set. That was true for Ryan Haak in three separate events — the 60-meter dash, 200-meter run and 300-meter run — as well as Kayleigh Simpson, Samantha Marion and Harrison Matthews.

To some extent, that’s what track and field — something of an individual sport with a team component — is about.

“Everyone always wants to improve themselves,” said Haak, a student in his final year of the pharmacy doctoral (PharmD) program who broke a facility record in the 60m dash, finishing in less than 7 seconds for the first time in school history. “The whole point of track is being faster.”

“I knew to get through it, I needed to focus on myself and not what anyone else was doing,” said Simpson of her mile run, which she completed in 6:46:80 — breaking her own record by over 10 seconds at a meet in her hometown of Utica.

“You’re always competing against yourself and you always want to get better,” echoed Marion, who broke a weight throw record by throwing a 25-pound ball 1.5 meters. 

And to some extent, that focus on personal improvement is also the philosophy of track and field Coach Samson Dikeman. He sees the track as a place for personal growth and camaraderie, where athletes push themselves and encourage each other. 

“I really enjoyed myself as a student athlete,” Dikeman said. “So my biggest thing is making sure these students are enjoying themselves as well.”

As with all things Panther, community spirit infuses the team. Participating in athletics provides runners and throwers with a diversion and a tight sense of community on a campus known for academic rigor. These Panthers look out for each other at meets, and the upper-class students check in with their first-year counterparts to make sure their academics are on track too. 

“Everyone is open and kind and generous,” said Matthews, a first-year student pursuing PharmD, who broke a school record in the 1,000m early in the season, then went on to break that record before the season ended. He was also part of a foursome who broke records in the 200m and mile relay races.

In keeping with the track and field mindset, athletes said they are looking for even speedier times when outdoor season begins March 30. National championships are within reach for both the men’s and women’s teams.

“I still have a lot I want to improve on,” said Nityha Gutta, a first-year microbiology student who broke a six-year-old school record in her first 300m race of the indoor season. She also broke the record in the triple jump. “I wouldn’t say this is my end goal.”

First-year students (pictured below), which made up more than a quarter of the team this year, contributed heavily to the team’s indoor season success, Dikeman said.


Indoor Track and Field School Record Breakers, Winter 2024

Nityha Gutta - 300m, triple jump

Harrison Matthews - 1000m, 4 x mile relay, 4 x 200m relay

Ryan Haak - 60m dash, 200m, 300m

Matthew Shakow - 5k

Kayleigh Simpson - mile

Michael Dean - 4 x mile relay, 4 x 200m relay

Kevin Andrews - 4 x mile relay

Dylan Wang - 4 x mile relay

Ethan Nigro - 4 x 200m relay

Daunte Wright - 4 x 200m relay

Samantha Marion - weight throw

Team members at practice in mid-February with Assistant Coach Bruin Smith, left, and Coach Samson Dikeman, right.