When Riley Masters made it to the NCAA finals in the mile run last winter, the Bangor native had exceeded his own expectations.
But the aspirations for the University of Maine junior will be slightly different this time around as Masters will compete in both the mile and 3,000-meter runs Friday at the NCAA Track and Field championships at Texas A & M University in College Station.
“I’m just trying to come in with a positive mindset, hopefully just build on what I did last year,” Masters said. “The main goal right now is just to try to get through to the final.”
Classmate Corey Conner of North Townsend, Mass., will compete in the women’s 5,000 meters for UMaine.
The preliminary race in the men’s mile will start at 3:15 p.m. Friday with the finals at 4:10 p.m. Saturday, while the 3,000-meter final is set for 5:55 p.m. Saturday.
Conner’s 5,000-meter race will go off at 6:05 p.m. Friday.
Masters is coming off a victory in the mile at last weekend’s IC4A meet in Boston, in which he ran 4 minutes, 2 seconds, just off his school-record No. 8 seed time of 3:58.17.
In that race, he held off former Bangor High teammate Casey Quaglia of Binghamton University, who finished third.
“It was great to race against Casey. We haven’t raced since high school. It was quite the experience,” Masters said.
While Masters is also seeded 10th in the 3,000 with a time of 7:53.11, his main focus will be on the mile.
“The way things have been going I really feel pretty comfortable in the mile,” he said. “Hopefully things work out for me. I’ve got the 3,000 to fall back on.”
Masters was fifth in the mile last winter, earning All-America status.
While Masters has plenty of experience on the track on the national championship stage, this will mark Conner’s first run at the indoor nationals.
But it’s not like she hasn’t run on this level before after two straight NCAA appearances in cross country.
“My biggest goal is to try to stay calm, not get overwhelmed by the people, just try to relax, run a great race and just have fun,” said Conner, who owns a personal-best of 16:06 in the 5K.
That school-record time was also the fastest in the nation earlier this winter.
Even though Conner has excelled in cross country for the Black Bears, she had typically focused on the shorter distances on the track.
“I haven’t really run the 5K that much, it’s still one of those races that’s pretty new to me,” she said. “Last year I kind of concentrated on the mile. This year it’s nice to get to a different race, I guess.”
Masters will certainly be in the mix in the mile, as he’s only four seconds behind No. 1 seed Patrick Casey of Montana State.
“It’s wide open for who could win it,” he said. “I’m sure it’ll be very competitive, we’ll see who comes out on top.”
Masters is also hoping to exceed his seed in the 3,000.
“Every big name in college track and field is in that, that should be very competitive,” he said. “Just finishing in the top 10 would be a very good accomplishment for me.”
Conner’s 5,000-meter field features nine runners who have broken the 16-minute barrier, and she’d like to reach that milestone, too.
“It’s always a goal of mine to run faster, so that would be awesome,” she said.
The races can be viewed online at ESPN3.com or ncaa.com.
Elsewhere in the field, Becky O’Brien, a native of Cumberland, will compete in the women’s shot put for the University of Buffalo.
She is ranked eighth out of 21 throwers with a toss of 17.10 meters (56 feet, 1.25 inches).