By Ryan Adams ’19 / Sports Information Intern
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- The Eastern Connecticut State University men’s and women’s track and field teams look to have a great meet this Saturday at the Little East Conference (LEC) and New England Alliance (NEA) Championships, hosted by Plymouth State University at the Bank of New Hampshire Field House at Allwell North.
The University of Southern Maine is the four-time defending LEC men’s team champion (either UMass Dartmouth or Southern Maine have captured the last ten men’s titles), and Southern Maine has claimed the last 18 LEC women’s championships.
The men look to improve upon their finishes of seventh (LEC) and 11th (NEA) of a year ago, hoping to reach their finish of No. 4 (LEC) in 2015. The women have posted fourth-place LEC finishes each of the past two years and their sixth-place showing in the NEA a year ago was their best since they attained an identical ranking in 2010. The Eastern men won three LEC titles between 2002 and 2007 while the women are shooting for their first title ever.
The top two finishers in the LEC competition are named All-LEC (the champions being presented medals) and the first eight finishers overall and first three relays are named All-NEA. Points go to the top eight in the NEA and top six in the LEC.
The six field events get underway at 11 a.m., with the 12 individual track events and three relays kick off at 12:15.
Much of Eastern’s success will hinge on the performances of a large crop of talented freshmen.
As the No. 2 seed in the 3000 and the No. 3 seed in the mile in both the LEC and NEA competitions, freshman Ryan Escoda (Newtown) looks to score some big points. Freshman Rahman Oteng (Accra, Ghana) is seeded second in the 60 and third in the LEC and seventh in the NEA in the 200. This year, Oteng set the school record in the 60 and Escoda was only two seconds off Lee Cattanach’s 3000 record of 8:49.46 they each look to have great performances this weekend.
At right: Freshman Rahman Oteng's program-record time of 6.96 has given him the No. 2 seed at 60 meters at Saturday's meet.
In the 1000, freshman Tyler Wright (Westport) looks to have a good day where he is seeded sixth overall in the NEA and a scoring place of fourth in the LEC. In the 5000 -- the longest event on the track -- another freshman John Walker (Westerly, RI) looks to place high in his event. He is seeded 12th overall in the NEA and fifth in the LEC.
Behind Escoda in the mile is sophomore Maxwell Chace (Brooklyn), who is ranked sixth in the LEC and 11th overall. The top seed in the 600 is junior Mike Braley (Oxford), who, like Chace, ranks sixth in the LEC and 11th overall.
Eastern looks to score some points for the LEC in its races such as freshman Shemar Stewart (Bloomfield) being seeded seventh in the NEA and fourth in the LEC in the 60 hurdles.
The men have numbers in different field events. Eastern has two names in the top six slots of the LEC in the pole vault. Freshman Christopher Weir (Norwich) is seeded fourth overall and third in the LEC, and sophomore Tai Barron (Mansfield) seventh overall and sixth in the LEC. As a freshman, Barron placed second in the LEC and third overall in the NEA. He looks to have another great performance such like the one he had last year.
Eastern has two of the top five seeds in the triple jump in LEC competition in junior in JahDey Wright (Colchester), and senior Chidebe Ndibe (West Hartford). Wright is fourth, and Ndibe fifth. In the long jump, Ndibe is seeded third in the LEC and fourth in the NEA and senior Brendan Cullinane (South Windsor) is sixth in the LEC and seventh in the NEA.
Senior Matt Pinney (Mansfield) looks to have another great performance in the shot, where he was second in the LEC and eighth in the NEA a year ago.
The 4x200 and 4x800 relays are seeded third in the LEC and the 4x400 is sixth.
The women return a number of names to the meet this season who placed high in the NEA and LEC competition.
At left: Junior Rachel Osak is seeded second at 5000 meters and fourth at 3000 meters among Little East Conference qualifiers at Saturday's meet.
The team had lots of success recently, as it placed first out of 13 other teams beating Keene State by one point at the Plymouth State Panther Invitational Feb. 2. Another great accomplishment for the team this year included junior Ahriyan Brown (New Britain) setting the school record in the 60 at the Smith College Pioneer Invitational with a time of 8.15.
Along with another school record being broken just this past weekend at Boston University, senior Haley Knox (Bristol) breaking her own record in the 1000 with a time of 3:07.70. Both look to have great meets where they score a good amount of point for their team in all their events. Knox raced to second place in the LEC last winter.
In LEC competition, Eastern athletes are seeded third or higher in five individual events and in one relay.
Senior Samantha McKosky (Deep River) is the defending LEC champion in the mile run (also placing third in the 800) with a time last year of 5:16.90, and returns as the No. 1 LEC and NEA seeds. She looks to have performance like the one from last year if not better than that to win the LEC mile title again this year and in the process score a high amount of points for the overall team score. The 4x800 relay is also seeded first in the LEC and in the NEA.
Junior Rachel Osak (Portland) is seeded second in the LEC and fourth in the NEA at 5000 meters, and is fourth in the LEC and seventh in the NEA in the 3000, In the high jump, sophomore Jasmine Conduah (Fairfield) is third in the LEC and sixth in the NEA, and junior Brittany Kriley (Fair Lawn, NJ) fifth and eighth, respectively. Junior Hayley Brodeur (Old Saybrook) is third in the LEC and fifth in the NEA in the 400.
Senior Christina Gosselin (Old Saybook) figures to provide Eastern with significant points in the mile, following top-seeded McKosky as the No. five seed in the LEC and No. 7 overall. Sophomore Laura Bresson (Roxbury) is the club’s only competing qualifier in the 800, where she sits as the No. 5 seed in the LEC, No. 8 the NEA. Brown looks to place high in the 60, where she is seeded ninth overall and sixth in the LEC.
At No. 5 in the shot put, Manar Enany (Fairfield) is the team’s only freshman seeded in the top six in the LEC. She is seeded tenth in the NEA.
In similar fashion to McKosky, the 4x800 relay is seeded first in both the LEC and NEA and, like McKosky, is the defending champion (the relay also captured the NEA title last year). All four of last year’s relay participants from the title team return: Bresson, McKosky, Knox and Gosselin.