PAT LONGOBARDI — Sports Writer
Because of some big injuries during the season, the SCSU women’s track and field team knew it was going to be difficult to try to overcome and win the Northeast-10 Conference Championships.
The Owls came in as defending champion for the third straight time and fought hard with many good performances on their way to a third-place finish in Boston, Mass.
UMass-Lowell won the meet with 171 total points. Stonehill finished second with 138 points, while Southern was third with 106 points.
Southern moved down two spots in the rankings to No. 14 nationally and were still the only Northeast-10 team ranked.
SCSU head coach John Wallin said he was happy with the team’s effort despite some adversity.
“We went in minus 60 or 70 points because we lost three athletes, so we were at a [distinct disadvantage],” he said. “We fought very hard with pride. Our captains scored more than half of the team points and helped showed the ‘Alpha-Owls.’ I can not say enough about them. They saw it as a challenge, but they were passionate and intense. They did not give in to ‘who cares’ [since many were injured]. They did a great job competing and trying to score points. The kids were really excited.”
The SCSU co-captains, senior Ashley Bell and junior Kimberly Johnson, led the way.
Bell came in first in both the 55 meters at 7.20 and the 200 meters at 25.12, with NCAA provisional marks in both.
The Owls took the top three spots in the pole vault as Johnson finished first and tied freshman Michelle Grecni, clearing a height of 3.65 meters to claim a NCAA provisional mark, and Meghan Nicolletta finished third. Johnson also finished second in the high jump with a height of 1.62 meters.
Johnson said the team did a good job and that her events were very competitive.
“We did what we thought we could do,” she said. “Some got points that were not scheduled to get points.”
“The pole vault is my favorite [event]. It was a little different than usual. It was a fast pace. I believe it was the first jump off [in the event], which is very rare. It was about who was in better shape. I barely made it. It was very nice to win and share it with Michelle [Grecni] is fun. … I had retired from the high jump my freshman year because it generated a lot of pain. After two years off, it was like the old days. There was a lot of energy and I almost had two jump-offs.”
Two Owls also received conference honors. Grecni was named Female Rookie of the Year and junior Brittany Brown was also named Female Athlete of the Year.
Brown, who missed the NE-10 Championships due to injury, had posted top rankings in four events: 60 hurdles, indoor pentathlon, long jump and high jump.
Brown said that although she did not participate at the championships, she was thinking about improving and feeding off of her performances before she got injured.
“I think they did pretty good,” she said. “The top three were injured and third place is really good. They had confidence. Next year we will be like savages and not let injuries get to us with adversity and confidence.”
“I was top in the nation with my marks,” she said. “I have to get better. I made the trip [to NE-10s] to support my team. I think I would have won my events I am in. I have to make the correct jumps and I have to work mentally.”
Wallin said the team is staying positive and is still trying to qualify as many as they can for Nationals.
“We have been hurting on the women’s side so it is a little different on the women’s side,” he said. “We expect Ashley [Bell] and Kim [Johnson] to do better, and Titilayo [Vanriel] still needs to get an invite [for Nationals]. For others, it is about getting experience and exposure, and it is more developmental for them.”
Owls finish third
PAT LONGOBARDI — Sports Writer