As 23 women’s track and field teams descended upon the University of Southern Maine Field House on Friday in Portland, Maine, it would be easy to get lost in the crowd. The list of competitors seemed endless, as all the Division III high jumpers, long jumpers, throwers and sprinters in New England came together and tried to put up a time or distance worthy of an invitation to nationals. With so many eager and motivated faces, how could one possibly stand out above the rest?
Despite the tall task, seniors Laurie Jenkins and Crystal Davis did just that, leading their team to a fifth-place finish in the 4×200-meter relay and a third place showing in the 4×400-meter relay en route to a 13th-place finish among Division III teams. On top of that, Jenkins also tallied a second-place finish in the 200-meter dash with a time of 25.73.
“I was shocked and excited that we did as well as we did,” said Jenkins.
Using Davis as the leadoff runner for the 200-meter relay and Jenkins as the closer, the Pride were able to stay close to the top of the pack, a group that would finish between one second of each other from first to fifth place, with a time of 1:46.27.
Davis would morph into the closer for the 400-meter relay group, and with teammates Jessica Miller as the leadoff, and Gabby Gaudreault and Jenkins taking the two and three spots, the group of Pride runners would snare a time of 3:59.93, outlasting RIC and Tufts for the top three finish.
“Crystal Davis is, I think, hands down, the best leadoff runner in the area,” said Coach Jim Pennington. “She just gets everybody out. She’s amazing…And Laurie has been fast all year. She blasted that thing out [the 200-meter].”
While the Pride got solid contributions from the running side, sophomore Amanda Martin gave Springfield a solid boost with her sixth-place finish in the long jump with a distance of 17-01.50, and her fifth-place finish in the triple jump after landing with a distance of 35-08.75.
“She’s jumping really well this year, real strong,” Pennington pointed out. “She’s knocking at the door to go to nationals right now.”
Even though Springfield was aided by the stellar performances by Davis, Jenkins and Martin, among others, some younger Pride athletes put up personal bests, including freshman runner Abigail Wright, who PRed (personal record) in the 800-meter with a time of 2:24.82.
“My jaw dropped,” remembered Wright as she crossed the finish line. “I was so shocked. I didn’t know it would happen. It was cool.”
As the Pride turn their attention to the All New England Championships this coming weekend in Boston, the preparation becomes more focused, and coaches continue to support the team.
“[We will] stress some of the fundamentals that weren’t done the right way, keep the practices shorter, keep their focus on what they’re doing, and keep it fun,” Pennington noted. “Try to alleviate any doubts they might have as early [as] possible because if those creep in, they’re done. Basically, we’re just supporting them, motivating them, and fine tuning them. The next two weeks are make or break for everybody.”
“A lot of technique work, boosting my confidence, basic light work,” pointed out Jenkins.
The team has contributed well this year, especially in the 400-meter relay as the group of Miller, Gaudreault, Jenkins and Davis are attempting to get their time down to qualify for nationals.
“[In] the 4×400 we are hoping to get a much faster time to put us higher up on the national list. I think they can make it. They should be able to make it,” encouraged Pennington. “It’s up to them. It’s up [to] them to put it all together.”
“Hopefully we will be able to drop times to get to nationals,” added Jenkins.
As the Pride tuck their heads and sprint and leap into Boston on Feb. 22, they will do so with deep motivation to improve their times, but also a strong confidence that they can achieve their goals.