By Sean Savage
Practices were treacherous, and the season was long – however, the blood, sweat and tears poured in by each athlete made for an unforgettable 2022-23 indoor track and field season. An electric atmosphere at meets propelled multiple new records and laid the foundation for runners, jumpers, throwers and vaulters to see much success.
The Springfield College track and field athletes put forth remarkable seasons that will help launch the program into even more success in the years to come.
“Our support system has played a large part in the success we have seen this year,” sophomore Sam Paul said.
As a transfer student from Northeastern University, the long and triple jumper was a new addition to the Pride. However, the transition was easy due to the team’s maturity and culture.
“There was just an instant group of friends, which helped a lot,” Paul said. “The coaches were also very receptive to caring about the team not only as athletes but also as people. They understood that we are students first, and that is not something that you get everywhere.”
Before the indoor season ramped up, the Pride were preparing during intersession. While most students and athletes enjoy winter break, the track and field team returns a week early. Throughout the week, they do various activities that involve team bonding, activities and building chemistry.
The morale of the Pride peaked when sophomore pole vaulter Jillian Scott launched herself to new heights in the Triangle Classic on Feb. 18.
“When I took that jump, I had no idea I was going to break a record,” Scott said. “All of a sudden, all of my teammates jumped on top of me on the mat, telling me I just broke the record.”
The previous pole vault record was 10 ‘11.75″ and had been in place since 2016. Scott cleared 11 ‘3.75″ – shattering the previous record.
“At first, I was like, ‘No, that is not the record; that is only a little higher than what I just jumped.’ When I realized it was, I thought, ‘Oh, that is crazy,’” Scott said.
Although Scott broke her high school’s record, she never would have imagined breaking a college record. She briefly heard about the previous record and maybe thought it would be within reach as a senior; but never as a sophomore.
“My younger self would probably be literally so excited,” Scott said.
That meet also featured six other personal records, but this was not the first time Springfield athletes saw success.
Their first meet of the season was an early glimpse of what would lie ahead. The Pride had six total New England Division III qualifications: in the long jump, senior Colby Wilson jumped 6.79 meters, and senior Matlyn Gross jumped 5.16 meters. Gross later broke a personal record by a substantial 40 centimeters, which boosted her to a No. 3 national ranking at the time. Paul also jumped 11.05 meters and Gross again with 10.78 in triple jump.
In the 60-meter spring, sophomore Evan Weber finished in 6.93 seconds, and junior Anthony Penta crossed the line in 7.08.
“When everybody is succeeding and seeing the payoff from the work they put in is so exciting,” Paul said. “We are always uplifting and pushing each other to do our best.”
Scott added: “Everyone is rooting for everyone’s best. We have a very supportive team, and everyone is looking out for you. Whether you are close with them or not, I could go to people in other event groups, and they would still cheer me on and give me hugs.”
More recently, there was another reason for the Pride to celebrate. Sophomore Joe Wong joined the books as a record-holder in the 600-meter with a time of 120.80 in the Division III New England Championships on Feb. 25.
Wong tried to set a new record not once, twice, but three times – and the third time was the charm.
“When I first crossed that line, I wished there was a photographer there. I was starstruck,” Wong said. “I was in awe like that just happened.”
Coupled with this, Wong also won the race, and it was a moment of everything coming together. Since the summer, Wong has been working toward his goal.
“I worked on building high volume and mileage, and then I turned my focus to a lot more speed work,” Wong said.
Before his name was called for the event, Wong unleashed a tunnel vision-like focus.
“I was just listening to Pop Smoke, like that is my man. I was just blasting that in my ears and visualizing how each lap would feel,” Wong said.
Wong broke the record on what he considered “the second biggest stage” regionals. He sees this as a stepping stone to take his talents to nationals next year. Along with Wong, 11 other athletes qualified for regionals.
As of now, Gross is the lone athlete heading to nationals, but others will try to join her in the upcoming meet on March 4 – the Tufts National Qualifying Meet – which is seen as a last opportunity to qualify.
Another testament to the Pride’s success is 2018 alum Jack Pinho breaking a four-minute mile.
“Only four other Division III coaches have ever coached an athlete [who ran] under four, and one of them is at Springfield. [Assistant Track and Field coach Anna Steinman] knows what she is doing,” Wong said.
As the season comes to a close, Paul reflected on her first year with the Pride.
“The team is just really funny,” Paul said. “I feel like for a lot of sports, you see practices as kind of like a chore. However, here, I am actually excited to go see my coaches and teammates and spend time with them.”
Photo Courtesy of @_coach.molly_/Instagram