UConn track and field is looking to reestablish their presence as an old power in the Big East when they head to Chicago for the conference championship this weekend. Marking their first appearance at the championships since their high profile return to the Big East, the Huskies sit comfortably at the top of both the men’s and women’s USTFCCCA conference rankings, well ahead of three-time defending champions and arch rivals Villanova. Totaling 802.37 points from scored meets this indoor season, the men’s team holds the lead ahead of Butler and Georgetown, with Marquette and defending Big East champions Villanova trailing in fourth and fifth respectively. In the women’s rankings, the Huskies are ahead with 675.68 points, with Villanova St. John’s, with Marquette and Georgetown completing the top five.
With their last conference championship coming in 2016 as part of the American Athletic Conference, the women’s team will be led by several key athletes on their quest to bring the championship back to Storrs. On the track, Mia Nahom 4:35.27 places her as the top seed in the mile, with stiff competition expected from Georgetown’s Sami Corman and Shannon Flockhart of Providence, who trail closely with season best times of 4:36.52, and 4:36.64. Compatriot Chloe Thomas holds the fourth seed with a 4:40.74 best this season. The 60 meter hurdles will feature freshman Jailya Ash, whose 8.54 best this indoor season ranks her third in the conference. Junior Randi Burr goes into the weekend ranked third in the women’s 5000 meters, with a 16:20.08 best this year.
UConn boasts more promise in the field events going into conference weekend, as five Huskies are ranked first in their respective events. Taylor Woods leads the field as the top seed in the long jump with 6.26 as her best mark this season. The pentathlon will feature junior Emily Lavarnway, who is the conference leader this season, tallying 3,971 points earlier this month. Freshman Zayin Roe heads into the triple jump as the top seed with a 12.17 meters mark, and will have classmates Felicia Quainoo and Jasmine Barrow who are ranked third and fourth respectively, to pull off a possible sweep. Sophomore Patricia Mroczkowksi starts in the high jump as the top seed following her 1.80 meters clearance this season, and will try to hold off Villanova’s Sanaa Barnes and Lindsey Mirkes of Marquette who complete the top three seeds in the event. Junior Emma Chee leads the rankings in the pole vault, with a season’s best clearance of 4.11 meters. Chee is followed by Ashley Preston (3.90 meters) of Villanova, and Brielle Buechler (3.80 meters) of Marquette. Named Big East Athlete of the Week twice this season, junior Mikyla Rodgers enters the weight throw as the number two seed behind Villanova’s Sade Meeks. Meeks’ 20.88 meter best this season, is a distance from that of Rodgers (19.81), and will likely push the Husky to a personal best in order to top her in the event.
The men’s track events has three Huskies holding the top spots in their event rankings. Sophomore Joseph O’Brien shares the top seed with Joshua Paige of Georgetown in the 60 meters, with both clocking 6.80 seconds this season. O’Brien and Paige also hold the top two spots in the 200 meters, with Paige leading at 21.07 seconds to O’Brien’s 21.65 seconds. The 60 meter hurdles sees freshman Terrel Williams leading the seeds with a 7.81 PB performance this season. Junior Xavier Smith is fourth in the rankings, behind the DePaul duo of Ashton Colaire and Darius Brown. Junior Wellington Ventura leads the 200 meter field with his 46.63 clocking earlier this season. The Butler duo of Tom Pitkin and Jacob Uhl trail Ventura in the rankings, with 47.26 and 47.32 seconds respectively.
In the field, the Huskies are led by the multi-event trio of Jordan Torney, Benjamin Grosse and Nicholas Pronovost, in the heptathlon. The trio leads the national events squad rankings, but are second, third and fourth respectively, in the Big East rankings, which are led by Marquette’s Joseph Keys. Freshman Richard Kwaateng leads the conference in the long jump with a best of 7.36 meters, with teammate Marc Morrison (7.18 meters) in second. The high jump sees junior Daniel Claxton ranking first with a best clearance of 2.13 meters. The UConn duo of Travis Snyder and Tyler Hrbek are at the top of the conference rankings in the pole vault, with 5.20 meters and 5.30 meter clearances respectively. Following their last conference title in 2014, the men’s team are poised to end a seven-year drought.
The championships get underway today at the Track and Field Center at Gately Park, in Chicago, Illinois at 11:30 a.m. with the women’s weight throw and the men’s pole vault.