by Tyler Roaix
The Blue Devils have added yet another championship belt to their total this year. For the second time in program history, the Central Connecticut men’s indoor track and field team has won the Northeast Conference championship.
Sophomore Marquis Ward kicked the competition off early, being crowned as the NEC high jump champion for the men. His 2.04-meter jump topped the pack of 13 competitors. Sophomores Amaziah Gadson and Kevorni finished second and fourth in the event, respectively, showing a complete dominance by the Blue Devils early in the competition.
Ward followed it up with a silver medal in the triple jump, setting a new personal record with a 14.24-meter jump.
Junior Alex Norstrom and sophomore Roberto Piotto came in second and third, respectively, in the 5,000-meter run to take home another two medals for the men.
Junior Akiel Smith, freshman Jonathan Gill and senior Sam Borecki all won silver medals in their respective events. Smith set a new personal record in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.88 seconds. Gill set a personal record in the 800-meter run in a time of 1:52.64, falling to the gold medal winner by just 1.08 seconds. Borecki continued his strong campaign in the pole vault, posting a throw of 4.75 meters.
Senior Austin Trainor won the final medal for the Blue Devils with a bronze in the mile run, finishing in a time of 4:13.35. Trainor came up just short of the silver, as he was edged out in the last corner of the run by a Wagner runner.
The championship is the second in program history. It is also coach Eric Blake’s 15th conference championship in his nine years at CCSU. Nine of those championships have come in cross country, while six have now come from track and field.
“We have had a lot of knowledgeable events and assistant coaches. The athletes believe in the program, want to get better and willing to put the work in to get to that level,” Blake said of the success his program has had. “I’m just glad to be part of it each day.”
On the women’s side, the Blue Devils failed to follow the men’s suit, finishing in fifth place among the field. They did, however, have several outstanding individual performances, winning six medals in the competition.
Junior McKenna Kilian got the hot start, winning the long jump individual championship, setting a new personal record with a 5.62-meter leap. Kilian made school history in the process, becoming the first Blue Devil to be crowned the NEC long jump champion.
“That was an awesome feeling when I found out I was the first Blue Devil to win that event,” Kilian said of her long jump win. “I was really proud that I was able to represent my team and our school like that. Winning the event was also a nice reward for all the time and hard work I had put into practices since September. This is a championship that I won’t ever forget.”
Junior distance runner Dawn Hubbell had the strongest run of her career in the 5,000-meter run, placing second overall and winning the silver, out of 16 runners, running it in a time of 17:27.62.
“Dawn strength came into play this weekend. After a personal best in the 3k she came back with another in the 5k on day two and a silver medal,” Blake said of Hubbell. “She was ready for the double after the hard work she took on this winter.”
The relay team of freshman Angelia Rafter, junior Sierra Nesmith, Kilian and sophomore Megan Brawner won the silver in the distance medley relay to keep the ball rolling for the team.
Nesmith also had a great day on the field. She tallied a new personal record in the triple jump with a 11.73-meter leap, winning the bronze medal in the process.
Sophomore Hailey Rospierski capped off the medal-winning for the Blue Devils with a pair of bronze medals in field events. She set a new personal record in the 60-meter run with 8.94 seconds. She also posted a 1.64-meter jump in the high jump for her second medal.
Kilian shared after the meet that she was happy with her team’s performance, despite coming up short of the conference title.
“I am really proud of our team as a whole. We had to overcome a lot of adversity this season, but everyone still went to the meet with the determination and the will to do well,” Kilian said. “I also think our team showed it’s potential this weekend. We have people who are capable of scoring in all areas. I think the outlook is very positive for us going into the outdoor season. We will also be regaining a few members who red-shirted this season as well. We may be a small team, but with our work ethic, determination and dedicated coaching staff, I think we have a shot to be in the running to bring a championship back to Central.”
Blake shared similar sentiments, highlighting that the team, while talented, doesn’t quite have enough depth. “That’s on me, not the athletes,” Blake said.
The Blue Devils won’t have long to celebrate their achievements. They are back in action Sunday, Feb. 25 at the BU Last Chance meet. They’ll follow that up with a trip to the IC4A/ECAC Championships March 3 and 4.