UConn track and field dominates Big East Indoor Championships to sweep team titles

04/14/2019 Track and Field by Julie Spillane. The UConn men and women’s track teams compete at the Northeast Challenge meet held at the George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex, on the UConn Storrs campus. The athletes dominated the annual home meet with the men scoring 164 points and the women scoring 198.33 points.

A record-breaking display at the Big East Indoor Championships over the weekend saw UConn track and field teams winning the men’s and the women’s team titles. Following a strong start on the opening day that climaxed with both teams leading the standings, the Huskies returned on day two in dominant fashion to close out the championships, well ahead of their rivals. Going into the championships as overwhelming favorites, UConn surpassed expectations to produce 29 personal record performances, four school records, two facility records and one conference record. The women’s team managed to upstage three-time defending champions Villanova (116.5 points) to finish with 179 points. DePaul raked in 94 points for third, with St. Johns (75 points) and Georgetown (66 points) in fourth and fifth respectively. In men’s competition, the Huskies beat the Big East record with a totaled 229 points, outrivaling runners-up DePaul (99 points) and defending champions Villanova (96 points), while St. John’s (75 points) and Georgetown (66) completed the top five. 

Claiming their third Big East indoor title, the women took home the most individual titles, with seven gold medals as part of a twelve-medal tally. On the track, junior Randi Burr won the 5000 meters in a new 16:17.84 PR, earning her maiden conference title and medal. Burr’s second PR performance of the championships came in the 3000 meters, crossing the line fourth in 9:25.47. Senior Mia Nahom was edged into second by Providence’s Shannon Flockhart in the mile, clocking 4:47.11. Following a PR performance in the prelims, freshman Brianna Davis produced another PR in the final of the 60 meters, taking silver in 7.55 seconds. Teammate Danielle Phillip also improved on her PR performance from the prelims, finishing sixth in 7.70 seconds. Another PR came for Davis in the prelims of the 200 meters, where she clocked 24.55 seconds, before finishing sixth in the final. The 400 meter duo of Raquel Rosa and Sophia Castronovo also bettered their PRs in the prelims, returning in the final to clock 55.77 and 56.12 respectively, for fourth and fifth place. The duo later helped the Huskies get bronze in the 4×400 meter relay. Freshman Felicia Quainoo took fourth in the 60 meter hurdles, in a new 8.72 seconds PR. 

The Huskies showed their prowess in the field events, claiming six gold medals. Junior Emma Chee lived up to her impressive season in the pole vault to take gold with a clearance of 4.21 meters, erasing her previous 4.10 meters school record. The women’s high jump saw junior Patricia Mroczkowski setting a new facility record and PR, topping Villanova’s Sanaa Barnes on countback to get a top the medal podium with a 1.81 meters clearance. Team captain Taylor Woods found herself among the ‘golden girls’ after winning the long jump with 6.15 meters. UConn also won gold in the triple jump after freshman Quainoo leaped to 12.15 meters for a new PR, leading a 1-2 finish for the Huskies. Sophomore Jasmine Barrow finished a close second with 12.13 meters. Classmate Jamie Kobus produced 11.54 meters for a new PR, while freshman and conference leader Zayin Roe was fourth with 11.89 meters. 

In the weight throw, captain Mikyla Rodgers rose to the occasion to outperform Villanova’s Sade Meeks, winning gold on her final attempt with a big PB of 20.29 meters. Junior Emily Lavarnway secured another gold medal for UConn in the pentathlon after totaling 3956 points, earning three event wins and one PR performance in the process.  

After two days of competition which saw the men’s team topping the medal table with 10 gold medals and 19 medals overall, the Huskies claimed their tenth Big East indoor title. Captain Eric Van Der Els highlighted men’s competition on the track after a superior performance in the 3000 meters, crossing the line first in 7:52.02, which was well inside Patrick Begley’s previous 8:03.44 school record set in 2018. Van Der Els also obliterated the 10-year-old 7:57.50 conference record, whilst leading the next three finishers to better the previous record as well. The men’s 400 meters saw junior Wellington Ventura setting his second school record this season to take the gold. Ventura clocked 46.26 seconds to erase his 46.47 seconds record set in his freshman year, whilst also setting a new facility record. Classmate Noah Woodman finished third in 47.80 seconds, with Markus Bagley taking fifth in 49.07. Freshman Terrel Williams secured gold for UConn in the men’s 60 meter hurdles, stopping the clock at 7.83 seconds, with junior Xavier Smith placing fourth in 8.13 seconds. Following a 8.57 seconds PR performance in the prelims, freshman Donovan Wright lowered his PR again in the final, finishing sixth in 8.56 seconds. In the men’s 800 meters, sophomore Stephen Sutton produced a bronze medal-winning 1:49.11. 

The quartet consisting of Woodman, Robert Doherty, Mahamed Sharif and Ventura secured another gold for UConn in the 4×400 relay, clocking 3:13.60 to get on top of the podium. The Huskies won another gold in the distance medley relay, after the quartet made up of Kevin Cawley, Doherty, Joseph Pearl and Van Der Els finished first in 9:40.49. 

In the field, the Huskies secured five gold medals. Their accomplishments were highlighted by a clean sweep in the pole vault, which saw Travis Snyder produce a school record and PR clearance of 5.37 meters. Classmate Tyler Hrbek edged teammate Patrick Oatman on countback, both clearing 4.90 meters, with the former earning a new PR. The sweep continued in the high jump, with the Huskies going 1-2. Senior Daniel Claxton produced a best 2.15 meters clearance, with teammate Kasey Savage taking the runner up spot with a 1.95 meters clearance. Savage was also named Men’s High Point Performer of the championships after placing second in the triple jump. Sixth in the long jump was won by teammate Richmond Kwaateng, with a 7.39 meters jump for a new PR. The throws produced more gold medals for UConn, with senior Chris Keegan producing 18.89 meters in the weight throw, while teammate Travis Roux threw 18.05 meters for bronze. In the shot put, senior Matthew Brady secured gold with his 17.13 meters attempt. The multi-event trio Jordan Torney, Benjamin Grosse and Nicholas Pronovost took second, third and fourth place respectively in the heptathlon. 

UConn’s coaches were unanimously voted coaching staff of the year, capping off their most decorated conference championship in program history.  

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