By NoraNoel Nolan
The Sacred Heart University men’s and women’s track and field teams traveled to Staten Island, N.Y. on Feb. 16 and 17 to compete in the Northeast Conference (NEC) Championship.
The women’s team was just shy of taking home the NEC title for the fifth year in a row. The Pioneers finished the championship in second place with a total of 106 points, falling three points shy of Long Island University (LIU). As for the men, they placed sixth out of eight teams in the meet, with a score of 66 points.
Major contributors to the women’s team were graduate student Akuadasuo Ezenyilimba, and seniors Kate Svensen, Lindsey Lucas, and Tara Connelly.
Ezenyilimba, a thrower, won her first NEC individual title by more than one meter, firing her best throw of the season of 18.40m. She was followed by teammate, senior Jenna Rothermel, who took home the silver with a personal best of 17.23m. Both Ezenyilimba and Rothermel had Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) qualifying throws (16.40m).
On the track, Svensen won the Most Outstanding (Distance) Track Performer, as she claimed her first career wins in the 3000 and 5000-meter run. She stopped the clock with a time of 10:02.82 in the 3000, and 17:20.03. in the 5000. In the 3000 meter, Lucas followed close behind earning the silver medal crossing the finish line at 10:04.95, while Connelly took the bronze finishing in 10:07.47.
That moment was one of head coach Christian Morrison’s favorite and most memorable of the championship. The trio of Svensen, Lucas, and Connelly swept the 3000-meter, accomplishing what no other Sacred Heart women have done in program history.
“It’s very rare for one team to sweep the medals in any event,” said Morrison. “We’ve only done it once before. Our men swept the 60-meter hurdle medals in the 2011 indoor championship.”
With a close loss to LIU, the Women’s track and field team are determined to win the outdoor NEC Championship in the spring.
“Coming off of this past championship, it is definitely disheartening that we did not win,” said Connelly. “We’ve won the past four years, however, I know every girl gave it their all and brought positive energy to the arena. We will take this loss as a learning experience and get ourselves fired up to win Outdoor NECs.”
The men’s team placed sixth out of eight teams in the meet with numerous standout individual athletes.
Senior Trevor Guerrera repeated his 2017 indoor performance, earning two individual titles in the 800-meters and the mile. Guerrera also ran the mile leg of the 5th place distance medley relay and a leg on the 6th place 4×400 relay.
“It was really exciting winning the mile and the 800. My goal was to defend both of my titles from last year and I really zoned in on that. You never know how a championship meet is going to pan out,” said Guerrera.
He plans to use these wins as the confidence to defend his titles in the outdoor season, as it will be his last season as an athlete.
“To prepare for my final season as a collegiate athlete, I am doing a lot of mental preparation to prepare myself for each meet. A runner’s mentality is very important to be able to perform at the highest level. My goals are to make NCAA Regionals and move on to nationals,” said Guerrera.
Senior Michael Kearns and junior Christian Turner also placed in two events at the meet. Kearns placed 3rd in the weight throw and shot put. His best mark is currently 15.92 meters. Turner took 6th in the shot put with a best throw of 14.64 meters and 5th in the weight throw with a best mark of 14.71 meters.
The Pioneers will compete next at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC)/Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) Indoor Track & Field Championship. The teams will travel to Boston College for the meet on March 2-4.