HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP —
Big East track & field teams are at the Spire Institute this weekend for the Big East Track & Field Championships.
This year marks the first year the championships will be held at Spire. Fourteen women’s and 13 men’s teams will make up the field, including the 2012 men’s champion Notre Dame, and Georgetown, the 2012 women’s champion. Events will begin at 11 a.m.today with the men’s and women’s multi 60m dash and 60m hurdles.
(For a complete schedule of events, visit www.bigeast.org/Sports/BIGEASTTrackcom.aspx>).
Since 2002, either Connecticut or Notre Dame has taken the men’s title, and both will make strong cases again this year. The Fighting Irish return three-time Big East champion Jeremy Rae, an individual and relay point-scorer. In 2012, Rae won the mile (4:05.48) and was a member of Notre Dame’s second-place 4x800-meter relay team. Notre Dame went on to win the distance medley relay (9:35.48) at the 2012 NCAA Track & Field Championships. The Fighting Irish also return the third-best 400m runner in the country in Patrick Feeney. The junior looks to defend his 400m Big East championships from 2011 and 2012.
Connecticut looks to use its experience and balance across track and field events. Darnell Cummings has recorded the best 60m time so far this season (6.78), and looks to improve on a fourth-place finish in 2012. Cummings also ranks second in the league in the 200m. Noel James is the only high jumper to record a mark over seven feet this season, recording a league-best 2.14m in January. Eric Massington ranks first in the shot put with a toss of 17.87m, while senior Joshua Faboyede sits at second in the weight throw. The Huskies also have the two best heptathletes in the league to date, seniors Jesse Chapman and Ben Waruch.
After placing third by 1.5 points over Villanova in 2012, Pittsburgh reloads for 2013 thanks to Brycen Spratling, the 2012 Men’s Most Outstanding Track Performer, who won the 200m (21.16) and 500m (1:00.63) last year. Spratling is nationally ranked in the 200m (14th, 21.01) and the 400m (4th, 46.25) this season. Joining Spratling in the 400m field is Carvin Nkanata, who ranks third in the Big East. Both are members of the top 4x400m team in the league for Pittsburgh (3:08.54). Their league-best time was recorded last week when the Panthers competed at the Spire Institute.
Key to the men’s title — the 400m.
Both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh are stacked in the 400m, with each team placing three in the top-six of the Big East performance list. The open 400m, 500m and 4x400m relay will likely be the deciding factors between the Fighting Irish and the Panthers. The two teams are 1-2 in the 4x400m relay standings, more than five seconds faster than the next closest team.
60m hurdles — With Jarret Eaton departing as a national champion in the 60m hurdles, Syracuse wasted no time in topping the event this year. Sophomore Donald Pollitt (7.86) and Amadou Gueye (7.89) are 1-2 in the Big East. Pittsburgh senior Tashaun Hill (7.89) ties with Gueye for second on the performance list, and looks to improve on a fourth-place finish last year. One tenth of a second separates the top-four on the performance list for the 60m hurdles.
Pole Vault — Rutgers senior Chris Wyckoff has been first on the performance list since January with a mark of 5.12m, but Cincinnati junior Josh Dangel (5.10m) and USF sophomore Drew Volz (5.05m) are within .07m (three inches) of Wyckoff’s mark.
Defending champion Georgetown looks poised for another strong performance this year. The 2012 Big East cross country champions have at least one top-three league performance this season in the 500m, 800m, 1000m, mile and 3000m. In the 800m, 1000m, mile and 3000m, Georgetown has recorded at least three scoring marks based on times so far this season. Georgetown also has the top Big East 4x800m relay time (8:47.55) and second-best DMR mark (11:05.66) to date behind Villanova.
Notre Dame will look to assert its dominance in jumps and sprints after finishing fourth last year. Junior Michelle Brown and freshman Margaret Bamgbose have the top two 400m times (54.59, 54.70), while Kaila and Jade Barber have finished well in shorter sprints and long jump. Kaila Barber ranks first in the long jump (6.12m), third in the 60m hurdles and sixth in the 200m (24.45). Jade Barber has the top 60m hurdles time (8.26). Sophomore Mary Esther Gourdin also recorded the top triple jump mark (12.54m) two weeks ago.
Louisville, the 2011 Big East women’s champion, looks to return to the podium this year behind senior thrower Khadija Abdullah. The senior won the shot put in 2011 and 2012, and will look to defend her title against Connecticut’s Victoria Flowers. Abdullah is the first women’s indoor track & field athlete to be a repeat Big East champion in the same event. Senior Amashi-Ali Kendall will also look to defend her title in the 20-lb. weight throw. Juniors Liberty Slinden and Patrice Gates will also look to contribute from the circle for the Cardinals. Senior Margret Harris has the top 60m time (7.38) and the second-best 200m mark (24.27).
Key to the women’s title — middle distance.
With the bulk of Georgetown’s point scoring coming from middle distance, the Hoyas will likely be up against a strong Villanova team in most races. Villanova freshmen Kelsey Margey and Angel Piccirillo could challenge the 800m field, while 2012 Big East cross country individual champion Emily Lipari will take her experience to the mile and 3000m races for the Wildcats. Syracuse’s Lauren Penney will also likely be at the front of the pack in the mile and 3000m.
Pentathlon — Cincinnati junior Kaitlyn Good looks to follow up former teammate and current coach Jasmine Cotten and win the pentathlon for the Bearcats. Good recorded her league-best point total of 3,907 at the Spire Season Opener in Dec. 15. Pittsburgh’s Elizabeth Kline is the top returning finisher in the pentathlon, beating Good last year to finish fourth with 3,631 points. The senior is currently second on the Big East performance list with 3,741 points.
5000m — With the top four performance list times coming from the Boston University Terrier Classic on Jan. 25, the four sophomores from Providence and Connecticut will get a chance to race against each other again. Providence’s Emily Sisson leads the field (15:44.40), with teammate Laura Nagel (16:07.56) in third. Connecticut teammates Lindsay Crevoiserat (15:58.47) and Lauren Sara (16:30.50) rank second and fourth, respectively.
Seven men’s and 14 women’s individual or relay competitors are currently nationally qualified.
Pittsburgh’s Brycen Spratling has recorded two individual qualifying marks to this point in the season, as well as being a member of the 11th-ranked Pittsburgh 4x400m team.
The top-16 individual and top-12 relay teams nationally will be invited to participate in the NCAA Track & Field Championship this year.