Track & Field Brings Most Competitors to NCAA in Team History with Four Relays and Two Individuals

By Robert Erickson

The Panther Indoor Track and Field teams turned in a strong showing at the ECAC Championships on March 4-5, in their last meet before the season culminates in the National DIII Indoor Championships next weekend.

The men finished 17th out of 51 teams, while the women settled in 23rd out of 50 schools. A pair of school records fell along the way: Nicole Schachman ’16 won the 1,000-meter race in a Middlebury-record time of 2:56.18, while Maddie Pronovost ’17 improved on her old pentathlon record with a score of 2,992 points, good for sixth place.

Generally pleased with the results, Coach Martin Beatty ’84 couldn’t help but praise one athlete in particular. “It was a solid meet,” he said. “We left with an ECAC Champion in the 1,000 meters — Nikki Schachman. She is a real success story, in that she was a walk-on who had to prove her way onto the team as a freshman in a tryout. Now she is the ECAC champion and going to the NCAA’s as the leadoff leg in the distance medley relay.”

Among the other Panthers who garnered all-ECAC honors (with a finish in the top eight) were the members of the men’s 4×400 relay team — Jimmy Martinez ’19, James Mulliken ’18, Brandon Cushman ’16 and Alex Nichols ’17 — who retained their top-12 national ranking with a third-place time of 3:16.98. Kevin Serrao ’18 placed fourth in the 800-meter race (1:53.95) and Jonathan Perlman did the same in the mile race (4:18.24), while John Natalone ’19 cleared 14’11.5” in the pole vault en route to a seventh-place finish.

The women got a boost from a strong performance in the 3,000-meter run by Katherine MacCary ’19, who crossed the finish line tenth in 10:31.88.

In addition, the Panthers had a handful of athletes compete at the Last Chance Meet at Tufts on Friday, March 4. In the men’s distance medley relay, the team of Serrao, Lucas Carpinello ’16, Mulliken, and Sam Cartwright ’16 turned in the 10th-best time in the country for the winter (10:04.05), good for fourth place. Sebastian Matt ’16 finished third in the 5,000-meter run (14:44.34).

The men’s and women’s teams will be sending 17 athletes to Nationals: the most in school history. However, those athletes’ successes are the entire team’s successes, according to Pronovost.

“The representation of athletes Middlebury College will have this year is remarkable,” she emphasized. “Four relay teams and two individual athletes qualified for Nationals this year, which speaks to the strength and depth of talent our athletes on the Middlebury Track and Field team possess. The hype around nationals this year has been incredible due to the success of so many individuals on the team, and I know that those racing at Nationals will certainly feel the presence and support from those not competing.”

Of course, that’s not to say the rest of the athletes will be twiddling their thumbs back at home. “Track and field is an interesting sport that has back-to-back seasons,” Beatty pointed out. “indoor and outdoor actually overlap, since we still have people competing indoors, while others are training for the first outdoor meet. The NCAA people are doing workouts to be fresh and peak for the championship, while the now spring track people are doing harder workouts. Everyone is excited to watch the webcast of the indoor NCAA and cheer on our top indoor people.”

When asked whether the team’s performance this year had surpassed expectations, Pronovost responded with a definitive yes.

“I strongly believe that the team’s hard work and dedication to the sport has allowed the team to exceed our coaches’ expectations for the indoor season,” she said. “I’m confident that the team will ride this momentum into the spring season, and I look forward to seeing Middlebury Track and Field show the rest of the NESCAC league what it means to be a Panther.”

The men’s and women’s 4×400 and distance medley relay teams will compete at the DIII National Championships at Grinnell College in Iowa. In addition, Alex Morris ’16 will serve double-duty, competing individually in the 400-meter dash as well as anchoring the 4×400 relay; Adrian Walsh ’16 will represent Middlebury in the 5,000-meter race.