Track & Field: UNH performs well at championships

By Max Sullivan
On March 4, 2014

Good things came to both the men's and women's UNH track and field teams in the last two weeks of their indoor schedule, including broken school records, a potential qualification for this year's women's national indoor championship and three first place finishes in the America East and New England Championships.

For the women, freshman Elinor Purrier broke her own school record on Sunday at Boston University's Last Chance Meet in the mile event with a time of 4:36.14. She had first set the school record a week before at the conference championship. Her success has kept her in the top 16 in the country and is giving her a chance to compete in the national championship on March 14 and 15 in Albuquerque, N.M. The freshman will find out if she is going to Albuquerque by 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

At the previous weekend's conference championship, junior John Prizzi placed first in the conference championship 3,000 meter race.

The following weekend, freshmen Drew Piazza and Chris Poggi and seniors Steve Souza and Eric Stys placed first in the New England Championship's 4x800 relay.

In the conference championship, which took place on Feb. 23 and 24, both men's and women's took fourth place. At the New England meet, men's placed fourth, while the women placed 14th.

Brian Boulanger, head of the track and field program and head coach of the men's team, said it's rare for a freshman like Purrier to compete in the national championship, especially at UNH, a school whose program is limited in the availability of scholarship funds. Purrier grew up roughly three hours from Durham in Montgomery, Vt., however, and has a tie to the university: Her grandfather graduated from the Thompson school of Applied Science at UNH. A combination of the track program and her desire to study in Durham brought her to the Wildcats.

According to the head coach, mental preparation is a big part of the challenge for athletes in their first national championship.

"It'll be a new experience with travel across the country, everything like that," Boulanger said. "More mental preparation as well as physical. She can keep running and doing workouts and, you know, keep her on that fine line of performance, but it's more of ... what she'll need on the mental edge. There'll be 16 competitors, best 16 kids in the country."

In the men's conference championship 3,000-meter run, Prizzi beat second Stony Brooks' Daniel Denis by 2.30 seconds, a deficit that came in the final 60 meters, Boulanger said. With a lap and a half to go in the race, Prizzi fell behind Denis. In the final stretch, though, Prizzi began accelerating, passing Denis and taking first. 

"John [Prizzi] made a tremendous run over the last 300 meters to catch [Denis] and go by him," Boulanger said. "That last two and a half seconds came in the last 60 meters of the race."

In the New England Championship's 4x800 relay, the results implied good things for the future of the team. With first year runners Piazza and Poggi as the squad's anchor and lead, the team beat Rhode Island by 2.05. 

"You can't look at them as a freshman. They're just running fast times," Boulanger said. "The good thing about track and stuff like that you rely on race experience to excel, and the two freshmen have a done a great job, all of the freshmen have, they've done a great job."

Boulanger said that championship wins not only boost morale but also the program's appeal to high school recruits. 

"Kids who really have a passion for their sport, they'll see how you develop kids," Boulanger said. "And having those individual champions is good for the program."

In addition to the first place finishes, Piazza, Souza, Stys and freshman Tanner Kent came in second place at the conference championship in the 4x800 relay. Piazza also found success in the 800-meter race, placing second in the conference championship and third in the New England Championship. Junior Isaiah Penn placed second in the 400-meter dash at the conference meet and fifth at New England's. 

Among the women, junior Jessica Salley tied a school record in the high jump with a mark of five feet and seven inches at the conference meet. That same weekend, sophomore Lauren Perrodin finished second in the 60-meter dash. In the New England Championship, Senior Allison Brehm missed a school record in the 200-meter dash by a hundredth of a second. She finished with a time of 25.04, the record being 25.03.

The Wildcats compete again this weekend in the ECAC championship, which will be on March 8 and 9.

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