Purrier, ‘Cats strong in weekend meets

Bret Belden

Elinor Purrier continued to establish herself as one of the most impressive athletes UNH has ever seen after her performance in Providence this weekend. 

A select squad from the men and women’s track and field teams competed Friday night at Providence College for the Ocean State Invitational, where Purrier qualified for the Olympic trials in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.  Purrier won the event with a time of 9-minutes, 47.17-seconds, which is 5.83 seconds faster than the Olympic-trial qualifier time.  She also claimed the new school record for the event in the process.

“Only 24 people in the country are able to run in the Olympic trials, and that’s pros, college kids, everybody.  That’s a really big accomplishment to qualify for that race. And to have someone who’s a sophomore eligibility wise, a junior in college, most of those people in that race are going to be pros, so for her to be running at that level here at UNH is really pretty impressive,” head coach Robert Hoppler said on his distance runner.     

“She’s a kid who’s won seven consecutive America east championships, so she’ll certainly be able to run at the America east but I think she’ll be able to approach that from a different perspective, training wise,” Hoppler explained. Purrier has just extended her season significantly, with the first round of trials taking place in early July, so she will have plenty of time to focus in.

Along with Purrier, many others saw success in Providence. Laura Rose Donegan and Chelsey Serrano competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and placed fourth and fifth respectively.  Brianna Boden finished sixth (16:57.93) in the 5,000-meter, Samantha Blais finished ninth (17:20.28) and Riley Gilmore tenth (17:22.16) for a new personal record.  Danielle Gajewski finished strong in the 800 with a time of 2:10.20, a personal record, while mile-runner Hannah Kimball also set a new personal record while taking second place with a time of 4:51.25.    

Back in Durham, the women’s team got the win with 209 points against Maine, Bates College and Lesley University. Eight first-place finishes in a wide variety of events helped cover all the areas needed to win the meet. 

“We’re very excited about having the pieces of the team start to come together to form that great team going into the conference meet. We’re able to have the sprints, jumps, throws, and also have that strong distance group that we have.  I thought we accomplished a lot this weekend,” Hoppler said on the team’s success at home. 

Both men’s groups performed exceptionally well this weekend also. At the Ocean State Invitational, Drew Piazza competed in the mile for a fifth-place finish and a new personal record of 4:06.25.  Senior Brendan McCarthy also set a new personal record in the mile of 4:16.38, which placed him in 19th. First-year student William Ulrich ran his fastest outdoors in the 800, placing in seventh and crossing the line in 1:53.63.  Thomas Harter ran the same race in 1:54.70 for 13th.

“It was worth it and I think the guys today did a very good job training and racing, I think it was a good meet,” Coach Jim Boulanger said on his Ocean State Invitational competitors. 

In Saturday’s quad-meet back in Durham, the men’s team cut it close but was able to pull off the victory. The ‘Cats edged out Bates College by three points, 197-194.  Seven first place finishes and depth in areas helped set the ‘Cats on top.

Ryan Maney and Brandon Allen were on the winning 4×100-meter relay team and placed first in their individual events.  Maney won the 110 hurdles in 15.08 seconds, while Allen won the 100 for a new personal record of 10.95 seconds.  Michael Shanahan remained consistent and won the hammer throw with a launch of 197-feet, 5-inches.  Sophomore Alex Tamulonis cleared 14’ 5.25” in the pole vault for first place as well. 

Junior John Cox excelled at the 800 setting a new personal record of 1:54.71 and claimed first. “[Cox] probably had the race of the day. He’s run the 800 and we’re just doing the mile repeats at 5:30 for training so that was good. I’m just proud of the overall group,” Boulanger said. “In essence we’re really practicing during these races. And we try to recover, we have to use the races intelligently.” 

The ‘Cats have a busy next couple of weeks before their season comes to an end.  This upcoming Wednesday and Thursday the men’s team will send Daniel Johnson and Joel Nkounkou to the Holy Cross decathlon meet.  Next Saturday, both the men’s and women’s teams will compete at the Umass Lowell Invitational starting at 11 a.m.