(Boston, MA) - The women's track and field team recorded a program best 2nd place team finish is this past weekend's indoor New England Championships at Boston University. The women racked up 76 points, and 15 individual "All-New England" honors to lose only to the University of Connecticut in a field of more than 50 participating schools. While leaving many larger schools in their wake, the women improved upon their previous best finish of 6th in 2008, and moved up from their 10th place finish last year, when they scored 26 points.
The men's team also had a strong weekend, placing 7th overall with 34 points, while notching 10 individual "All-New England" honors. Since 2006 the men have placed in the top 7 teams on five occasions, and bounced back well from a 17th place team finish in 2011.
The throwers led the way for the women's team, placing three athletes in both the weight throw and the shot put, and scoring 17 points in each event. Sophomore Lindsay Aponte emerged as the lone individual New England Champion for the women, winning the shot put competition easily with a throw of 14.09 meters (46' 2 ¾"). Also scoring for the Pioneers were senior Athalia Smith who placed 4th with a season's best put of 13.25 meters (43' 5 ¾"), and sophomore Kolbi Smith in 7th at 12.83 meters (42' 1 ¼"). Aponte easily surpassed the ECAC standard of 13.50 meters (44' 3 ½"), as she has numerous times this season. All three women earned "All-New England" honors for their top-8 finishes. For Aponte, it was her second individual New England title, as she also won the shot put in last spring's outdoor championship.
In the weight throw, Athalia Smith led a 2-4-5 finish for the women, placing 2nd with a throw of 18.35 meters (60' 2 ½"). She took the lead in the competition briefly on her last throw, but was passed by the eventual champion on her final throw. It was Smith's fourth time throwing over 60 feet this season. Athalia's twin sister Chantaul Smith threw a personal best of 16.58 meters (54' 4 ¾") to place 4th in the competition, and Kolbi Smith threw 16.25 meters (53' 3 ¾") to place 5th. All three women surpassed the ECAC qualifying standard of 16.00 meters (52' 6"), as each has done in nearly every competition this season. Senior Christine Middleton also threw well, placing 15th with a mark of 14.98 meters (49' 1 ¾").
Between the two throwing events, the women scored 34 of their 76 point total, completing dominating all other schools in the field. The next closest team scored 11 points in the two throwing events. Athalia Smith, with her 2nd place in the weight throw, and 4th place in the shot put was Sacred Heart's top overall point scorer with 13 points.
For the men, it was their dominance in the 60 meter hurdles that shined brightly. Senior Bertony Jean-Louis, and junior Jeremy Rosado came into the competition ranked 1st and 2nd, and they went out the same way. Jean-Louis clocked 7.95 seconds in the prelims, a season's best of 7.91 in the semis, and then another season's best of 7.85 to win the competition in the final. More significantly, Jean-Louis set a New England Championship record in the final, topping the winning time of 7.87 that UMass-Amherst's Tyler Cotto recorded a year earlier when he bested Jean-Louis. Jean-Louis did not top his own facility record and school record of 7.79, which he set while winning last year's IC4A Championship, but he'll have another crack at it in this year's upcoming IC4A meet. For Jean-Louis, it was his second individual New England title, as he also won the indoor high hurdle title his freshman year. Rosado, who won a New England title of his own last spring in the 110 meter hurdles, had to settle for 2nd place this time. Still, he improved on last year's 4th place finish, running faster each round, clocking 8.33 and 8.04, before dipping under 8 seconds at 7.99 in the final.
The Pioneer's third New England title of the weekend was picked up by the men's 4 x 800 meter relay quartet of junior Nicholas Arena, seniors Andrew Houghtalen and Jeffrey Lusignan, and sophomore Patrick Peterson. While each of the four men were qualified for multiple individual events, they decided to forgo individual accolades to pursue relay gold. Arena led off in a split of 1:56.0, followed by Houghtalen's 1:53.1, and Lusignan's 1:55.9. A tactical anchor leg led to a slow overall split of 1:54.2 for Peterson, but a win nonetheless. With seven teams bunched together with just one lap to go in the race, and Peterson at the back of the pack, a victory seemed in doubt. Nonplussed, Peterson swung wide and blasted the last 200 meters in 26.8 seconds to overtake the field, and leave all the other anchors in his dust. The result was Sacred Heart's first-ever relay title in an indoor New England Championship, and a new school record as well. The team's clocking of 7:38.96, took down the 7:40.89 school standard that was put up in last winter's IC4A Championship.
The 4 x 800 relay victory on Saturday, helped make up for a tough relay loss on Friday night, as the same quartet finished third in the distance medley relay, after a very tight battle with a group of five teams. The team's final time of 9:51.12 would've won the New England title in 13 of the previous 14 years. Houghtalen led off with a 1200 meter leg of 3:00.1, followed by Arena's 50.0 for 400 meters, Peterson's 1:51.3 for 800 meters, and Lusignan's 4:09.7 for 1600 meters. Each of the men earned "All-New England" honors for his effort to go along with their "All-New England" honors for the 4 x 800.
While many stellar performances were turned in by the women's squad, few were bigger than sophomore Katelyn Racanelli's performance in the 500 meters. Racanelli clocked a personal best of 1:16.51 to win her trial heat on Friday night, but she wasn't finished. In Saturday's final, Racanelli broke through with a 1:15.12 clocking to place 2nd, and earn 8 points for the team. It took a new meet record by UConn's Ana Groff to keep Racanelli from winning. With her performance, Racanelli qualified for the ECAC Championships for the first time ever, easily beating the ECAC standard of 1:16.04, and earned her first-ever "All-New England" accolades. She also broke one of Sacred Heart's oldest school records, taking down Sara Tasber's 2003 standard of 1:15.66.
The women picked up an additional eight points in the 5000 meters on Friday, thanks to a breakout performance by junior Alyssa Selmquist. Selmquist came into the competition seeded eighth, but had the race of a lifetime to finish 2nd overall in 17:32.88. Like Racanelli, not only did Selmquist earn her first-ever "All-New England" honors, she also qualified for the ECAC Championships for the first time, slipping just under the standard of 17:33.64. According to Head Coach Christian Morrison, Selmquist's improvement this year is "remarkable." Selmquist entered the season with an indoor personal best of 18:55.01, and an outdoor personal best of 18:34.40. In a meet in early January she ran an indoor personal best of 18:50.10, followed by a big personal best of 18:15.53 in late January. Selmquist made another big improvement to 17:56.74 to place 4th in the Northeast Conference Championships in early February, before dropping another 24 seconds in the New England's race. "I've seen athletes improve like this over the course of several years, but never all in one season," Morrison said. "It has to be attributed to Alyssa's hard work and dedication. Things are just starting to click for her," Morrison stated.
The women snared another 9 points in the 3000 meters, with Selmquist again in the middle of it. The women placed 5-6-7-9 in the event, led by sophomore Brittney Lane's 9:59.27 for 5th. Graduate student Brittany Heninger doubled back from the Mile (in which she placed 15th in 4:59.73) to place 6th in 10:04.43. Both Lane and Heninger earned "All-New England" honors for the first time in track, to go along with the "All-New England" honors they won for cross country in the fall. Then it was Selmquist again, placing 7th in a personal best of 10:12.11 to earn her second "All-New England" accolade of the weekend. Selmquist's 10 point total equaled shot put winner Lindsay Aponte's 10 points for second most on the team, behind Athalia Smith's 13. Sophomore Brianna Castrogivanni just missed scoring by 2 one-hundredths of a second, placing 9th in a personal best of 10:12.95.
Another school record, and another ECAC standard were left behind by senior Brittany Llobell in the 1000 meter event. Llobell clocked 2:55.90 in her Friday night trial race to advance to Saturday's final. More significantly, she broke her own year-old school record of 2:57.87, while qualifying for the ECAC Championships, as an individual, for the first time in her career. While she has qualified as a member of relay teams on several occasions, in this instance she topped the individual ECAC standard of 2:56.24. Llobell came back on Saturday and ran under her old school record again, clocking 2:56.64 to place 6th. Llobell earned "All-New England" honors in the 1000 meters for the second straight year with her performance. Sophomore Catherine Westby and freshman Emma Bolduc also performed well, running 3:02.36 and 3:02.41, respectively, in the 1000 meter trials on Friday. Bolduc's time was a personal best.
Freshman Ashia Wright scored key points for the Pioneers too, advancing through the preliminaries and semis in the 60 meter dash. She was the last qualifier into the final, placing 9th in the semifinals in 7.85 seconds. Wright put it all together in the final, however, crossing the line in a personal best of 7.70 seconds. Her performance was good for 3rd place and her first-ever "All-New England" honor. She also just missed the ECAC qualifying standard of 7.68. Though she didn't advance to the final, Wright added another personal best in the 200 meter trials on Friday, crossing the line in 25.86 seconds.
Senior Ashley Matakevich picked up 8 points total for the women, to round out the scoring, with a pair of 5th place finishes in the long jump and triple jump. Matakevich, who had already qualified for the ECAC's in both events, earned the 8th and 9th "All-New England" honors of her career with her performances. On Friday, she leapt 5.37 meters (17' 7 ½") in the long jump, and on Saturday she marked 11.71 meters (38' 5") in the triple jump. Freshman Dylan Baker missed scoring by just two places in the long jump, placing 10th with a leap of 5.18 meters (17' 0").
The top non-scoring performance of the weekend was turned in by junior Scott Polis in the pole vault. Polis recorded a bar clearance of 4.60 meters (15' 1"), to break the school record he set one week earlier at 4.57 meters (15' 0"). Though he vaulted the same height as the 8th place finisher, he ended up 10th overall based on misses.
Another strong performance was turned in by the women's 4 x 800 meter relay team. The quartet of Westby, Bolduc, sophomore Teresa Gagliostro and Llobell ran the 2nd fastest indoor time in program history. They won the slow section of the event in 9:21.30, and just missed "All-New England" honors, placing 9th overall. More importantly, the group qualified for the ECAC Championships in the event, easily surpassing the standard of 9:25.24. Split times included Westby's 2:21.5 lead-off, Bolduc's 2:19.8, Gagliostro's 2:23.7, and Llobell's anchor of 2:16.5. Llobell's split was an overall personal best, and Bolduc's was an indoor personal best.
Freshman Aleksandr Morin ended his indoor campaign on a high note, clocking a personal best of 2:32.27 in the men's 1000 meter trials on Friday to advance to Saturday's final. In the final, he just missed "All-New England" honors, placing 9th in another personal best of 2:32.11.
Another personal best of note was achieved by junior Matthew Wagner, who placed 13th in the men's weight throw with a mark of 16.72 meters (54' 10 ¼"). Wagner missed qualifying for the IC4A Championships by a mere 8 centimeters, while moving into 2nd on Sacred Heart's all-time list for the event. Junior Christopher Connelly, who had already qualified for the IC4A's, placed 11th in the 3000 meters with an 8:31.83 clocking. Also of note, freshman Nicolette Sands ran a personal best of 58.79 in the 400 meter trials, and junior Michelle Navarro ran a personal best in the 5000 meters of 18:26.12.
Reflecting on the weekend, Morrison stated, "We had so many great performances, it's hard to pick just one thing to talk about. The personal bests, school records, New England titles, and ECAC/IC4A qualifying performances came in bunches. Still, for the women to place 2nd in a meet of this importance…. It's the culmination of 18 years of hard work by our athletes and staff, since I founded the program in 1994. It was a very satisfying weekend."