The highly anticipated America East (AE) conference championship is upon the runners, throwers and jumpers of UNH. Next weekend on Feb. 24-25 the ‘Cats will take to the Boston University Track & Tennis Center against the eight other teams in the conference. Here’s what you need to know if you plan on keeping up with these two teams.
Looking at the women’s team, it will be interesting to see how they handle their personnel. Last outdoor season the women’s team placed second with tremendous efforts from Elinor Purrier and Emily Wernig, among others.
“It’s the conference championship. The team itself, we don’t really need to say anything to psych them up, the team gets really excited about this meet,” women’s head coach Robert Hoppler said. “Last year we were second both indoor and outdoor and we’re certainly looking to be one of the top conference teams again. So the team is very excited about having the opportunity to compete at this meet.”
Purrier had a heavy workload in last spring’s conference championship when she won the 800-meter, 1500m and contributed to the 4x400m relay. She currently holds the second-fastest collegiate mile time ran this season, but will be focusing on the 800m race this weekend.
“We put the athletes where we feel it’s going to benefit the team as well as the individual. It really depends on each individual season. I mean last spring we had [Purrier] really do a lot and this season she’s coming off of running cross country as well so we’re not quite sure what we’re really going to do,” Hoppler said
Teammate Laura Rose Donegan is also a standout runner for the team who competed last summer at nationals with Purrier in the 3000m steeplechase. She is focusing on the mile this indoor season and is coming off a two-second personal record (PR) from last weekend. The distance events should fare well, especially when the team is coming off its third consecutive AE championship season in cross country.
“We have two jumping events that we’re really excited about: our two high jumpers have done very well this year and our pole vaulters. From there you certainly can go to our middle-distance kids,” Hoppler said. “Our milers are running quite well, we have history in that event and a lot of success there. Also, middle distance as well, [Purrier] in the 800, and then distance with [Donegan] in the mile.”
Last weekend, a good number of members for the ‘Cats competed at the David Hemery Valentine Invitational at Boston University to prepare for conference, and showed great depth in the jumps department, with strong contributions and top ten placements from junior Rachel Morrison and Shelby Strickland in the high jump, and Grace Slevin and Kari Murnane in the pole vault last weekend.
If the past is any indicator of the future, this championship meet for the women should be very close and nothing short of exciting.
As for the men’s side, the team will take this opportunity to put their nose to the grindstone and develop their young team.
“It’s exciting to be at BU at a fast track,” men’s coach Jim Boulanger said. Boulanger’s team placed fifth at the Outdoor AE championships last spring.
“On the men’s side, going in with a young team and just trying to compete with [other teams’] level… Everything you do is about competition, so it doesn’t matter who’s beside you or what color school. You just got to go out and compete, win or lose, and if you already know the other guy’s resumes then we’re in trouble,” Boulanger said. “Go out there, stick your nose in it, and be a competitor.”
The young men’s team has been weak in the jumps for a while and will need to make up for lost ground, while the throwers, including Nicholas Ritzo and Eric Brogioli have consistently placed themselves into good scoring positions.
Two runners who have been on the upswing health-wise will make an appearance at this meet. “I’m looking forward to Billy Ulrich and Brett Hoerner to come around, they’ve been hurt all year,” Boulanger said.
Both meets can be followed online and live streamed at www.americaeast.com, with the first event starting Friday at 12 p.m.