Women’s indoor track kick-starts season at Smith

Women’s indoor track and field had an impressive start to its season on Saturday at the Smith Winter Classic. The unscored meet allowed the team to start off the season with relaxed competition from local Div. III teams, including Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Keene State, Worcester State, Gordon, Lasell College and Assumption.

While there was no pressure at this competition, two athletes hit qualifying standards for NCAA Div. III Nationals. Cross country All-American Jennifer Gossels ’13 cruised through the 5000 meter in 17:07.77, giving her an automatic bid to nationals in March. This impressive first race, which Gossels ran with little direct competition, is an indication of the Eph’s potential this season.

“Gossels … today produced the highest caliber performance with an NCAA auto-qualifying mark, breaking the Smith facility record and taking the No. 1 NCAA spot on the first weekend of the season, as well as the No. 4 all-time slot in Williams history,” said Assistant Coach Mitchell Baker.

Gossels’ teammates stepped up to sweep the next three places in the 5000 meter. Ceci Davis-Hayes ’11 placed second with a time of 18:10.37, qualifying her to compete in Open New Englands later this season. Following Davis-Hayes were KK Durante ’11 in 18:51.85 and Blair Robinson ’13 in 18:59.40.

In the weight throw, rookie Amina Avril ’14 claimed first with a toss of 15.85 meters. This throw earned her a provisional bid to Nationals, meaning that Avril already has a chance at a berth in the competition as a percentage of athletes with throws over 15.75 meters will compete at the meet. As Head Coach Fletcher Brooks noted, the rookie posted an impressive performance for her first collegiate meet.

Following Avril for second place in the weight throw was Jasmine Adekoya ’13 with a throw of 13.64 meters. This one-two finish shows the young strength of the weight team.

Williams won both the long jump and triple jump, thanks to the efforts of Tanasia Hoffler ’13 and Brooke Johnson ’13. Hoffler claimed first in the long jump with a mark of 5.34 meters, with Johnson coming in second with a 5.32-meter jump. Johnson came back to win the triple jump with an 11.53-meter mark.

In mid-distance, Alysha McElroy ’11 won the 800 meter in a speedy 2:29.14, while Louisa Lee ’14 and Julieanne Fontana ’14 both placed second in their respective races. Lee finished the 3000 meter in 11:20.54 and Fontana ran the 1000 meter in 3:09.88. Fiona Moriarty ’11 also came in second in her race, the 600 meter, with Sarah Guillot ’13 in sixth.

Shanali Amo Weeresinghe ’14 and Amanda Murashige ’14 placed third and sixth respectively in the 55 meter, while Sara Turner ’11 placed fifth in the 55-meter hurdles with a time of 9.36, all showing the Ephs’ strength in the short sprints as well as in the longer races and field events.

Overall, the meet demonstrated the team’s potential for the rest of the season and for the outdoor season. Only a percentage of the team competed since this meet was only a tune-up, yet quality performances emerged in most events.

Baker is still withholding judgment on this season’s squad. “Despite the strong early showing at Smith, it’s premature to compare last year’s team to this season’s squad,” he said. “Roughly 40 percent of the team competed at Smith, which means we only have a snapshot into what this team can be. Based on this first step, however, we are excited to see what cohesiveness and championship level we can attain by late February and March before our primary push into late April and May.”

The next meet will be the Harvard Invitational on Saturday, which will provide a tune-up for athletes who did not compete this weekend.