KEENE, N.H. 12/1/11 – The Keene State men’s and women’s track teams open up their indoor season at the Smith College Invitational on Saturday in Northampton.
The change of season brings a change of venue for most Owl track athletes. Instead of running on the trails, the sprint and mid-distance track athletes set up shop at either Baker Street or Drummer Hill Road and the throwers come inside, propelling an assortment of weights and shot-puts into a net in a room adjacent to the basketball court at Spaulding Gym.
“The workouts are more orientated to speed and power rather than endurance, said Sarah Titus, a senior from Derry, N.H. “It takes a little time for your body to adjust and to get your feet moving.”
Phil Elmer, a junior thrower from Cohoes, N.Y. says the move indoors is a mild adjustment. “The first couple of days it’s a struggle because you’re getting back into the rhythm of throwing every day,” he said. “But after awhile you get acquainted with the room and how it’s warmer than outside.”
Whether they’re inside or outside, KSC Track Coach Peter Thomas, along with his staff that includes throwing Coach John Napolitano, high jump coach Crystal Blamy and Tom Pickering, a recent addition who will coach sprinters and jumpers, have high expectations for both teams this season.
“On paper it looks good,” said Thomas perusing the long list of athletes on the women’s roster. “But we’ll see who we have in January when they return and the weather is a little colder.”
Although the team has no true sprinters, it does have some quality jumpers and hurdlers. A member of KSC’s All-American DMR squad last season, junior Janel Haggerty (Guilford, Conn.) also earned All-New England and All-LEC honors in the high jump last year. Thomas expects freshman Carley O’Brien (Kittery, Me.) to be a top competitor in jumps and hurdles. She won five individual state championships at Traip Academy.
They’ll be no shortage of candidates in mid-distance races. Returnees junior Maggie Fitter (Branford, Conn.), sophomore Emily LaPlant (Hudson, N.H.) and Titus are expected to be formidable competitors. Freshman Melanie Escalante (New Canaan, Conn.) leads the lists of newcomers.
Seniors Paige Mills (Keene, N.H.) and Andrea Walsh (Bolton, Conn.) should once again shine in distance races along with sophomores Erin Crawford (Townsend, Mass.), Mackenzie Curtis (Lamoine, Maine) and Marie Whitney (Jaffrey, N.H.).
Senior Keeley Moffitt (Guilford, Conn.), who finished third in the hammer and fourth in the weight throw event at last year’s LEC championship, is expected to compete at the regional level. Napolitano feels junior Whitney Cyr (Milford, Mass.), who placed third in the weight throw at the conference meet, has a chance to break the school record in the event as well as improve her marks in the shotput. Top freshmen include Courtney Hartwell and Samantha Folland (Exeter, N.H.).
With the potential to score in the jumps and sprints, Thomas is hoping the KSC women can end Southern Maine’s long hold on the LEC championship. “We’ll see how it shakes out,” he said. “We might be able to get enough points.”
Thomas feels Mills (5K and mile), Walsh (5K), Fitter (800 and mile) and Titus (mile) all have the potential to qualify for the NCAA championships in their respective events. He hopes to also piece together a DMR team for the nationals.
The Keene State men’s team should once again do most of its damage in distance and mid-distance races. A national cross country qualifier, senior Kevin Hoyt (Newtown, Conn.) will be looking to make a smooth transition from the trails to the track and make a run at All-American in the 5K race.
Sophomores Ryan Widzgowski (Camden, Maine) and Jian Giglia (Damariscotta, Maine) and junior Chris Plankey will be the Owls’ top runners in races ranging from the 800 to the mile.
According to Thomas, Michael Pianka (Springfield, Vt.), a New England and Vermont champion in the high jump, is the real deal and has the ability to qualify for the NCAAs as a freshman. Sophomore Evan Miller (Granville, N.Y) will also be a strong contender in the high jump while senior Monte Singh (Lebanon, N.H.) and junior Doug Dombrowik (Fitzwilliam, N.H.) are the Owls’ top returnees triple jump event.
While Napolitano concedes that if will be difficult to fill the shoes of Bryan Kolacz, a two-time All-American in the weight throw, the cupboard isn’t exactly bare as far as throwers are concerned. Elmer has demonstrated the ability to score at the LEC meet . “It’s our time to shine,” said Elmer. “We’re not behind the All-American anymore and it’s time for us to put our names out there.” Sophomore Angus Fisher (Northampton, Mass.), competing for the first time indoors, will be a threat in the shotput and freshman Ben Keach (Newfields, N.H.) is a newcomer to keep an eye on.
As far as the runners are concerned, dealing with the lack of an indoor facility and the elements goes with the territory. “Everyone has dealt with it for so long you just take it in stride,” said Widzgowski. “You don’t need the facilities to become a great runner. You just have to work at it.”