Both the men’s and women’s UNH track and field teams competed at home this weekend in the Wildcat Invitational on Saturday, April 8. The women’s team came away with a first-place finish in the first home meet of the spring season, while the men finished second behind the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Seniors Laura Rose Donegan and Alyson Messina both took first place in their events, the 1500-meter run and the 400m hurdles, respectively. Some young Wildcats also had impressive showings as freshman Michaela Conery won the 3000m run and sophomore Grace Slevin won the pole vault.
With a quality all-around effort, the women’s team accumulated 177 points in the meet while the University of Maine and UMass Lowell tied for second with 122 points apiece. The ‘Cats’ dominance was evident throughout the meet as UNH had three of the top-five finishers in the pole vault, 1500m run, high jump and 3000m run. Junior Emily Wernig was the top thrower for UNH, as she finished second in the hammer and the discus.
UNH was unable to keep pace with the UMass Lowell River Hawks on the men’s side. The Wildcats came in second with 146 points while the River Hawks totaled 164. However, Maine, Rhode Island, Brown and Holy Cross all finished behind UNH on Saturday. The men’s team also had a balanced performance, seeing quality work from runners, throwers and jumpers.
Freshman Zachary Astle set a personal record (PR) with his first-place finish in the discus, tossing it 149 feet, 0.02 inches. Junior Nicholas Ritzo took second in the discus behind Astle and also finished fifth in the shot put.
“It was a good win. [Astle]’s a big strong kid that listens well to the coaches. He had a good meet and set an outdoor PR in the shot put as well,” head coach Jim Boulanger said.
Junior Joel Nkounkou pitched in with a second-place finish in the 110m hurdles and won the long jump with a jump of 22 feet, 11.25 inches.
The runners for UNH also had an impressive meet in both distance and the sprints. Sophomore Brett Hoerner won the 1500m run with a time of four minutes, 2.93 seconds, while classmate William Ulrich finished in second 1.11 seconds behind Hoerner. The ‘Cats also won the 4x400m relay behind a group of four seniors: Brandon Allen, John Cox, Ross Hardy and Andrew McFarland.
“I think we had three 4×400 teams and they were trash talking all week,” Boulanger said. “We had a group made up of freshmen, mostly sophomores and the seniors and they were all excited to compete at home against one another.”
The weather in Durham happened to play a factor as well on Saturday, according to Boulanger.
“Running the distance races was tough because there’s 30 mph winds in your face for part of it and at your back for the other sections,” Boulanger said. “The wind was good and behind the 100m kids, though.”
Overall, Boulanger’s team can hang its hat on its second-place finish on Saturday, but will ultimately be looking to finish first in the Wildcat Invitational II on Saturday, April 15 against Maine, Merrimack College and Bates College. The women’s team will be competing in the Wildcat Invitational II as well on Saturday. Events will start at 11 a.m. at the Reggie Atkins Track & Field Facility.
Both teams will also send select athletes to the Providence Invitational at Providence College on Saturday to compete.