June 22, 2018
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Gagne, Conner head UMaine standouts at America East championships

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Justin Gagne was one mistake away from being eliminated from the discus competition Sunday during the America East Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

The senior from Biddeford didn’t allow that to prevent him from having a memorable day at the University of Maine’s Beckett Family Track and Field Complex.

Gagne qualified for the finals on his last attempt and won the discus with a heave of 169 feet, 1 inch, then placed second in the shot put to head a list of several Black Bears who performed well in the nine-team competition.

UMaine’s individual winners included hammer throwers Wilson Adams and Robyn McFetters, distance runners Corey Conner (5,000 meters) and David Currier of Sidney (10,000).

The University at Albany captured its eighth consecutive AE men’s title, while the Great Danes women won their fourth straight women’s outdoor crown during the two-day event.

The Albany men scored 181 points to outdistance runner-up Binghamton (147), while Boston University (145.5) took third place with UMaine (97.5) fourth and New Hampshire (84.5) fifth.

In the women’s meet, Albany tallied 185 points for a solid advantage over second-place Boston University (130) and Binghamton (124.5). The University of Maryland Baltimore County (105) and Vermont (90) rounded out the top five. UMaine (57) wound up sixth.

“This is the type of meet that you hope they do as well as their seeds,” said UMaine coach Mark Lech. “When there’s a lot of competition, then it’s like, ‘OK, you’ve done it before, but can you do it in this venue.’”

On Sunday, Gagne overcame a shaky start in the discus to win and threatened in the shot put. He fouled on his first two tries during trials, which meant he needed a solid, foul-free third throw to get into the finals.

“That was the safest throw I ever made in my life,” said Gagne, who sported black and orange shoes from his Biddeford High School days. “I said, ‘Let’s just get it out there.’”

He credited coach Gerhard Skall with getting him through some difficult moments before the last throw during the prelims.

“Honestly, if it weren’t for Gerhard, I probably would have melted down completely,” Gagne said. “I was beating myself up awfully bad.”

He won with his second throw of the finals, edging UMBC’s Aaron Brooks by two inches.

Gagne came up a bit short in the shot put, where he threw 55-7 3/4 to take second.

UMaine’s other Sunday highlight came on the track, where Conner set a league record in the 5,000. The senior from Townsend, Mass., achieved a personal best while breezing to a 10-second victory over BU’s Rosa Moriello in 15 minutes, 59.66 seconds.

Conner was a stride behind Moriello after 400 meters, but took the lead on the second lap and gained a small lead on lap 10 before pulling away over the final two circuits.

“That was a PR, finally under 16 [minutes]. I’ve been dying to do that, so I thought I’d make it exciting, make it just under 16,” Conner quipped.

Conner weighed her options before the race and opted to go out hard.

“I felt good and I was like, ‘I’m just going to try to go for it from the get-go and she hung on,’” Conner said. “It was a tough race, but I’m glad I did that. It made it a true race.”

On Saturday, Adams continued his hammer heroics with a throw of 185-2. The sophomore from Barrington, R.I., didn’t waste any time setting the standard for his competitors.

“It was actually my very first throw,” Adams said. “I went in there all pumped up and just tried to kill it, and it ended up working out real well.”

Adams said the initial effort, which was his personal record by 4 feet, 9 1/2 inches, let him relax and approach his subsequent throws with a more aggressive mentality.

McFetters, a freshman from Barrington, R.I., successfully defended her top seeding in the women’s hammer on Saturday. She had to work around some slippery conditions during the trials, but won at 177-11.

“Trials were a little rough because the circle got slick,” said McFetters, who was third at the indoor championships.

“I was satisfied, for the conditions. I wish we were throwing [Sunday],” she added.

Currier took an aggressive approach in claiming the grueling 10,000-meter run Saturday in 30:47.66, which for him was a PR by 12 seconds.

The senior wasn’t about to allow the pack to determine the pace. Instead, he and classmate Spencer McElwain of Caribou went in with a plan.

“Usually, the 10K’s pretty slow because nobody wants to be that one jerk to jump out to the lead,” Currier said with a laugh. “We were just like, we can’t run the last mile with most of these guys at 4:30 pace, so let’s just make it an honest race.”

Currier kicked it into gear at the 2 1/2-mile mark and estimated having a 50-meter lead near the halfway point. He wondered when he’d have to fend off a challenger.

“I was like, there’s no way that you can go out this hard and lead for so long and then be allowed to win. It’s just not how it works,” he said.

No serious challenge ever came. McElwain wound up fifth.

Allison Barwise of Boston University established a record with 5,274 points in the heptathlon, won the open high jump and was second in the long jump to win the Coaches’ Award and Most Outstanding Field Performer.

Lucy Van Dalen of Stony Brook ran a record time of 4:14.71 in the 1,500 to capture Most Outstanding Track Performer for the women, and Nika Ouellette of Vermont set a javelin mark of 164-0. Mercedes Jackson of UMBC (1st 200, 2nd 100) was the Most Outstanding Rookie.

Among the men, BU’s R.J. Page raced to a 10.52 for a record in the 100 meters and topped his AE mark in the 200 at 21.21 to win Most Outstanding Track Performer and the Coaches’ Award. Decathlon champ Malte Bertram of UMBC was the Most Outstanding Rookie.

Kadeem Howell, the Most Outstanding Field Performer, paced the Albany men with wins in the long and triple jumps. The Great Danes took three of the top five spots in the 100 and won the 4-by-100 relay.

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