The starter pistol will fire its first shot for the ‘Cats this Saturday as they kick off the long indoor track and field season vs. Maine. Both the men’s and women’s teams will look to continue on success from last outdoor season and from the long-distance runners who took to the cross-country course this fall.
Placing second last indoor and outdoor track season, the women’s team will have plenty to work with this season. With 12 school records having been broken last year and plenty of returners on the current roster along with a strong freshmen class, it should be another exciting year.
On the throwing side, Emily Wernig owns the school record in the discus and is the returning America East champion from outdoor track and field. After consistently bettering herself meet after meet, her performance this indoor season should be fun to watch.
On the oval, many of the usual suspects will be returning from outdoor and are expected to lay down some fast times once again. Junior Elinor Purrier set the school record in the 1,000-meter, mile and also contributed in the school record holding distance-medley relay (DMR) team in indoor. She took home first in the mile at the America East championships, and was third at nationals in the same event. After competing in the Olympic trials last summer and placing seventh at NCAA championships in cross-country this past season, she is primed for another elite-level indoor season.
Along with Purrier will be Laura Rose Donegan, who did not run cross-country this past season due to eligibility. Having won the 5-kilometer race last indoor season at America East, she also claimed all-American honors when she placed sixth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA championships. She owns the school record in the 3k and 5k. Expect Donegan to be fresh after not racing this fall and staying on top of her training.
Other areas to look out for are the relay teams, with records being set by the sprint medley relay team and the 4×1, 500-meter teams last spring. Another athlete to watch is junior Danielle Gajewski who owns the school record for the 500-meter, and had a very strong outdoor season where she qualified for the NCAA preliminaries in the 800-meter race
On the men’s side, standout thrower Michael Shanahan is poised to return after winning the America East conference and the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) championships back-to-back last year, setting a new school record in the weight throw.
After placing fifth in the conference last outdoor season, UNH will work towards being a top team in the conference, while also trying to have a strong presence at the IC4As, a large competitive meet at the end of the year.
“We’re a better overall team. [We have] a couple of kids in each even. Again like in the fall, we’ll be relying on the freshmen,” head coach Jim Boulanger said. “It’s going to be fun and again we have a great group of kids who are working real hard.”
The team suffered a blow when senior Drew Piazza transferred to Virginia Tech after last spring. Piazza was dominant and qualified for the NCAA east preliminary meet last spring.
Much like the women, the relay teams will be fun to pay attention to. Last year’s indoor DMR team finished seventh at IC4As.
The ‘Cats compete for the first time this season this weekend on Saturday, Dec. 3 in Orono, Maine.