Saturday will mark the beginning of the season for the women's track and field team as they take the track at the Reggie Lewis Center for the Winter Carnival at Northeastern University. But while competition is only just beginning, the team has been training throughout the semester and the women are ready to go.
"Their fitness level is great," coach Kristen Morwick said. "They're really enthusiastic. They're itching to get out on the track on Saturday"
Saturday's meet will give Morwick her first look at the team's progress since last season, and the women are confident they can do well. The team that sent a team record nine members out to the NCAA Indoor Championships last year and placed second in New England will be returning many members this season.
"We have a lot of raw talent," senior tri-captain Megan Sears said. "We're excited for the season and looking forward to it."
The middle distance runners have the strongest group of returnees. Sophomores Katy O'Brien and Laura Walls are back from the Distance Medley Relay team that competed at Nationals last season, and junior Sarah Crispin, an All-American in the 800, will also be returning. Junior Kate Makai, sophomores Anna Shih and Marisa Mann, and freshmen Susan Allegretti, Evelyn Sharkey and Megan Randall should plug the lone hole created by the loss of Katie Sheedy, who graduated last spring.
Losing junior Jillian Warner for the season due to medical reasons and Claudia Clarke from last year's All-American 4x400 relay team hurts the Jumbos, but senior Rachel Bloom and sophomore Kaleigh Fitzpatrick have a strong group of runners waiting in the wings to help them get back to Nationals. Junior Jess Mactas and sophomores Jenna Weir and Joyce Uang will look to step up and they will be joined by freshmen Jackie Ferry, Aubrey Wasser and Halsey Stebbins.
"We brought in a couple really good sprinters with good potential," Sears said. "There are a bunch of girls with talent who haven't had a lot of good coaching in high school. Rachel will still be leading us but we have a couple of girls on her heels."
Seniors Arielle Aaronson and Becca Ades, who were both abroad last year, will help anchor a strong long distance group that includes junior Raquel Morgan and sophomore Catherine Beck, who both provisionally qualified for Nationals last season in the 5k. The team will also look to sophomore Ana Hoyos and freshman Morgan Medders for help in the longer distances. The girls are coming off a cross country season that saw the team head out to Nationals for the first time since 1999.
"A much improved cross country season will I'm sure mean a better track season," Morwick said.
In the field, the Jumbos will be anchored by their group of pentathletes and jumpers. Sears returns from an ACL injury that sidelined her all season long last year and has fellow senior Daniela Fairchild and junior Maggie Clary by her side. The team is hurt, though, by the news that junior Kenzie Rawcliffe may not be returning to compete this season. Rawcliffe was a few tenths of a second off a trip to Nationals in the 55 hurdles last year.
Weir and Fitzpatrick both were two of the top jumpers last season at the Div. III New England Regional Championships, with Weir taking third in the long jump and sixth in the triple and Fitzpatrick getting fifth in the triple. Uang will improve at the high jump although Sade Campbell will be abroad. The team recruited two freshmen (Marisa Jones and Katrine Dermody) who they expect to fill in at pole vault. The freshmen additions, while inexperienced competitors, have already created excitement among the Jumbos.
"The freshman class is stronger than we anticipated and they're all really into it," Morwick said. "They've sort of inspired everybody else."
Growing pains will hurt the team in the throws however, as the squad loses Katie Antle and Jess Colby from last season. Colby broke the school record in the weight throw last season. Junior Joanna Utoh and sophomores Cecilia Allende and Sarah Martin will try to fill the void and they will have help from freshmen Paula Dorman, Emily Bleff and Kelsey Ettman.
Although losses are a problem for the team, Morwick insists she's not worried.
"There's no way we're worse," Morwick said. "We should be better and a lot will depend on just staying healthy and surviving a long track season."
The ultimate goal will be to try to improve instead of resting on last season's laurels. That would mean catching up to regional champion Williams and sending runners to Nationals to bring back some hardware for the school.
"A lot of people on this team have the potential to go to Nationals," Crispin said. "So we'll see what the season brings."