by Tyler Roaix
With an NEC championship from Central Connecticut’s men’s track and field team and a solid fifth-place finish for the women’s team, there was no doubt that the Blue Devils would get some recognition for their efforts.
Highlighting the awards was head coach Eric Blake, who led a CCSU coaching staff that was awarded as the best in the conference for the second time in Blake’s nine-year tenure at Central. The last time Blake and his staff were given the award was 2011.
When asked about the award, Blake was quick to take the spotlight off of himself.
“We have great student-athletes and dedicated assistant coaches,” Blake said. “The award is called “coaching staff of the year” for a reason so it’s really earned by the assistant coaches too. I’m just one of many when we talk about it.”
For Blake, it is now the 12th time he has been recognized as a coach of the year, when you take into account seven cross country awards and two outdoor track awards. Blake shared how, as the coach, his mentality has always been on maintaining a strong program for the long-term future.
“We seem to have a good system in place where we try to use all the resources we have. With that said, it means we always have to change and adapt our system because our resources are always changing,” Blake said. “I always want to maximize what we have here. Every decision on the program affects the present and the future in one way or the other. Most of the time I don’t mortgage the future to have a win-now attitude. I’m constantly thinking about the current season but also three to four years down the road.”
But Blake was not the only one recognized. In all, the Blue Devils received 12 all-conference awards for their performances in the indoor season.
On the men’s team, six members combined to take home nine awards: Marquis Ward, Akiel Smith, Jonathan Gill, Alex Norstrom, Amaziah Gadson and Sam Borecki all earned spots on the All-NEC Second Team. Norstrom earned two spots on the Second Team, while Ward earned another spot on the First Team. Gadson, a freshman, also was awarded to the All-Rookie team for his consistent performance in the high jump this season.
On the women’s side, the Blue Devils saw five team members awarded with all-conference honors.
The biggest name on the list was multi-event athlete McKenna Kilian. The junior had her best season to date at Central, becoming the first in school history to win the long jump event at the NEC Championships. She also set a school record in the pentathlon at the IC4A Championships a few weeks ago. So, it was no surprise when Kilian was named to the All-NEC First Team.
Kilian was also a part of the distance medley relay team that was named to the All-NEC Second Team. Completing the squad was freshman Angelia Rafter, junior Sierra Nesmith and sophomore Megan Brawner.
Junior Dawn Hubbell also made it to the Second Team. She earned a silver medal in the 5,000-meter run at the NEC Championships this year.
Blake was proud that so many Blue Devils were given the spotlight, after the work they put in this year.
“They earned it. I’m glad it worked out and it’s a nice recognition for them. I’m honored and proud to coach them,” Blake said.
Central will kick off the outdoor track and field season Saturday, March 31 when they’ll participate in the Black and Gold Invitational, hosted by fellow NEC competitor Bryant.