The women’s indoor track and field team enjoyed a very successful weekend at the America East Conference Championships for indoor track and field with great senior leadership and a second place finish overall. The men also had strong showings in several events, and finished in fifth place.

“We’re super excited about today, we mostly want to be focusing on what we accomplished today, take a deep breath, and really soak in this achievement as a team and go forward,” head coach Robert Hoppler said. Finishing with 133.5 points, spirits were high on the long bus ride home when talking to Hoppler.

Sitting in fourth place after the first day of competition, the ‘Cats knew they had a tough second day ahead of them.  The mile race was first event of the second day, and Elinor Purrier, Hannah Kimball, and Sarah Keiran wasted no time in setting the tone for the rest of the meet.  Purrier and Kimball took first and second, while Keiran took sixth.    

Other significant contributions were made by a number of athletes. Senior co-captain Lauren Perrodin placed second in the 60-meter dash, and seventh in the 200-meter dash. Senior Cassie Kruse took second in the 1,000-meter run, while Danielle Gajewski took gold in the 800-meter. Laura Rose Donegan paced the field in the 5,000-meter run, earning the win, and Amber Short followed her for a second place finish. 

Strong relay teams seem to be a theme for both the men’s and women’s teams this year.  The women’s 4×800-meter relay and the distance medley relay (DMR) team were both the conference champions. 

Three pole vaulters for UNH also set personal records as they went fifth, sixth, and seventh on the day.  Grace Slevin cleared 3.60 meters, Kari Murnane 3.45 meters, and Sabrina Anderson 3.45 meters.    

“We have great seniors, and they really did a great job of leading and motivating,” Hoppler said. “It’s great to have them go out with a runner up finish in the championship.”             

“It was such a great way to end my last indoor conference meet as a senior, to help my team score 10 points and work towards that second place, and the overall team score was an amazing feeling,” Kruse said.  Kruse anchored the winning 4×800 meter relay team.  A relay team usually puts great trust in its anchor to close out the race, which shows the trust the team put in its seniors to perform.

On the men’s side, the usual suspects performed at elite levels, but there were some other subtle stars that made an impact.

The men’s team finished fifth with 80 points on Saturday.  Despite falling short of its fourth place goal, the team still had a number of great contributions.

“Brett Hoerner was the shining star of the meet,” head coach Jim Boulanger said when asked about standout performances.  Hoerner, who is only a freshman, placed second in the 1,000-meter run, followed closely by freshman teammate William Ulrich, who took third. Both set personal records in the event.  Hoerner was also part of the second place 4×800 meter relay team, and the first place distance medley relay team.

“We’re talking about a lot of guys who are coming back and we need to fill some holes and keep this crew going,” Boulanger said, commenting on the progression of his underclassmen, who performed well Friday and Saturday.    

“Shanahan was his same old self,” Boulanger said, referencing the consistency of junior weight thrower Michael Shanahan.  Shanahan set a new meet record with his heave of 20.81- meters in the weight throw, scoring a much-needed 10 points for his team with the first place finish.  He also achieved fifth in the shotput, with 15.08-meters. His performance earned him the title of the America East Field Performer of the Meet. 

The ‘Cats also enjoyed some other conference titles from the men.  Drew Piazza had a healthy lead for the last lap of the mile race, finishing first with a new personal record of 4-minutes, 10.25-seconds. Piazza, Joseph Poggi, Hoerner and Brendan McCarthy formed the winning DMR team, completing the race in 9:54.48. 

Other notable performances include Isaiah Penn’s 48.74 in the 400-meter race, landing in third place. McCarthy took fourth in the 3,000-meter and Ryan Maney placed fourth in the 60-meter hurdles.

“Physically we can do it because of back-to-back workout days to simulate these meets,” Boulanger said of his athletes’ ability to compete in multiple events. “Mentally, we saw a lot of good moves by the kids.  Good thought processes and great signs of competiveness.  And that is what I think track is all about.” With an entire outdoor season on the horizon, multiple events prove both physically and mentally challenging for many athletes.

Both teams expect to evaluate where they stand during practice this week and decide which athletes will continue at the New England Championships in Boston. The two-day meet starts Friday, Feb. 26 at 12 p.m. and wraps up the following day.

Executive Editor