The New England Division III and All-New England Championships are quickly approaching, and head coach Ken Klatka, after 40 seasons at the helm as men’s track and field, will be retiring following the conclusion of the 2015-16 academic year.
However, there is another feature surrounding both the men’s woman’s track and field teams, in which they possess something that many of their opponents do not. This year, both teams have combined as one, and have thrived as a result. With Klatka leading the team, the men and women see themselves as a singular program.
The men have taken two third place finishes, a second place finish in the Middlebury Invitational, and a first place finish in the Massasoit Classic, in Klatka’s final indoor home meet. Junior Alex Niemiec was a key standout in the Massasoit Classic, where he finished the 60 meter dash in exactly seven seconds, which was good for a first place finish. Jacob Buhelt finished first in the 400 meter while sophomore Jack Pinho claimed first in the mile run with a time of 4:24.77.
“[My teammates] are always there cheering me on,” said Pinho, who is seeded at 11th going into New England’s. “It seems so little, but it’s really huge. Without those guys, success isn’t there. People think that track and field is an individual sport. But when you have teammates like you have here at Springfield it makes it a lot better.”
The women claimed first in the Springfield College Opener, Maroon and White Classic, and Massasoit Classic. Freshman Brooke McCardell (10-11.75 inches) was a breakout performer in the Maroon and White classic after breaking the school record for pole vault. Courtney Luscier has been extremely efficient for the Pride, taking first place in three of Springfield’s five meets this year.
“We’re combined teams, so the dynamic is a lot different,” said senior Abby Wright. “But everyone has a different mindset going into each track meet which is nice. We’re all supporting one another, instead of lone groups. We’re one big family now.”
Following the Valentine’s Invitational on Feb. 13, the New England Division III Championships will be held from Feb. 19-20 at MIT. The All New England Championships will take place from Feb. 26-27.