Gaining Tracktion for DIII New Englands

By Robert Erickson, Sports Editor

The Middlebury Track and Field teams kicked off their postseason at the 2017 NESCAC Outdoor Championship hosted by Bowdoin this past weekend. The women, paced by two event titles and a school record, finished third (97.66 points) out of the 11 teams in the conference behind Williams (239.83) and Bates (107); the men, who took home three event victories, wound up fourth (102.50), trailing Williams (175), Tufts (167) and Bowdoin (110).

The top performances for the women came from three different sections of the team: Catie Skinner ’17 represented the long-distance runners by smoking the field in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, beating the field by over eight seconds (11:09.11); Devon Player ’18 did the throwers proud with an event-winning javelin toss of 137’6”; lastly, the 4×100 quartet of Marisa Edmondson ’20, Maddie Pronovost ’17, Natalie Cheung ’18 and Elizabeth Walkes ’20 led the charge for the sprinters, crossing the line in school-record time (48.90) to finish fourth in the event.

For the men, Alex Nichols ’17 put together an impressive day in his last NESCAC meet as a Panther. He took home the crown in the 400-meter dash (48.43), his third win in four years at the conference championships; in addition, with the help of Cameron Mackintosh ’20, Arden Coleman ’20 and Jimmy Martinez ’19, he anchored the winning 4×400 relay team that set a new meet record (3:17.45). In the field events, John Natalone ’19 won the pole vault with a jump of 14’5.25” (teammate Nathaniel Albers ’20 would finish fifth in the same event with a height of 13’11.25”).
Although he was a little hard on himself, Natalone had good things to say about the team’s showing at the meet. “In terms of my performance at the meet, I’m generally happy with how I did,” he said. “I didn’t vault as high as I wanted to, but I was just happy to be able to contribute points to the team. As a squad, we performed really well, and I am exceptionally proud of everyone who went to the meet.”

“NESCACs is a really special competition; the entire team is full of energy and hype. My performance would not have been possible if it weren’t for the vibe set up by my teammates. Everyone contributes to the meet in some fashion, even if it isn’t scoring points.”

The rest of the team followed the leaders with a number of strong performances across all the event types. Pronovost, a multitalented athlete who’s a threat to score in a number of competitions, continued her strong season with a second-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles (14.83) and a fifth-place finish in the long jump (17’0.5”); she also ran the second leg for the fifth-place 4×400 relay team, which was rounded out by Lucy Lang ’19, Kate McCluskey ’18 and Paige Fernandez ’17 (3:59.07).

Other individual highlights for the women included Meg Wilson ’20 in the 800-meter (2:14.49, fourth), Abigail Nadler ’19 in the 1,500-meter (4:36.96, third) and Talia Ruxin ’20 in the 10,000-meter (38:11.38, fourth). Off the track, Kreager Taber ’19 pole-vaulted to a second-place finish (10’8”) and Jane Freda ’17 landed fourth in the triple jump (35’7.75”). In the relays, the 4×800-meter relay team of Anna Willig ’20, Erica Dean ’20, Skinner and Wilson crossed the line second overall (9:22.91).

For the men, additional strong efforts were recorded by a number of Panthers in the 800-meter run: James Mulliken ’18 came in second (1:52.88), Nathan Hill ’20 finished fourth (1:53.88) and Kevin Serrao ’18 crossed the line fifth (1:54.10). Serrao also finished third in the 1,500-meter run (3:52.89). In the sprints, Adam Markun ’17 dashed to third place in the 200-meter race (22.06) and Michael Pallozzi ’18 wound up fifth in the 110-meter hurdles (15.28). On the field side, Alfred Hurley ’19 recorded the second-longest javelin toss of the day (189’6”) and Minhaj Rahman ’19 landed third in the hammer throw (166’9”).

With the Panthers now firmly in the postseason portion of their schedule, every meet and every event means that much more. Natalone felt confident about his team’s chances. “The outlook for the rest of the postseason is great,” he said. “We have many team members who are right on the cusp of qualifying for late postseason meets such as Open New Englands and DIII Nationals, which should make for an exciting upcoming meet this weekend at DIII New Englands.”

“In terms of positives, we have a lot of athletes qualified through this weekend, which should keep the good vibe of NESCACs going strong. Also, a lot of people are hungry for a season PR — myself included.”

He warned that the team wouldn’t just be able to coast through the end of their season, though. “We have some health related things to improve upon,” he said. “I’ve been battling back issues, and many team members are nursing shin and hip issues. Staying healthy through these next couple of weeks will be important.”
Middlebury will head down to Williams this weekend to compete in the Division III New England Championships, the last chance for athletes to qualify for the Open New Englands the following week and Division III Nationals the week after.