ORONO, Maine — With the America East championship meet still a week away, track and field competitors at the University of Maine are turning in some outstanding performances.
The Black Bears host Holy Cross on Saturday in their final home meet of the season — and the last collegiate meet in the UMaine field house before renovations begin.
“Everybody’s getting kind of melancholy,” UMaine coach Mark Lech said.
UMaine plans to begin an approximately $5 million renovation to the facility beginning in the spring.
“There are a few mixed emotions,” Lech said, “but for the kids that are running on it now, there won’t be any mixed emotions. They’ll be happy.”
On Friday, senior distance standout Corey Conner took her talents on the road to compete at the Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York City. She bounced back from illness and a bothersome shin injury to churn out a strong effort.
Conner finished second in the 5,000-meter run, stopping the timer in 16 minutes, 14.19 seconds. She wound up only slightly more than two seconds behind event winner Laura Carleton of Louisiana State University (16:11.58).
The meet features competitors from many of the top Division I programs in the country.
“Early on, she was No. 1 in the country in the 3K [3,000 meters],” said UMaine coach Mark Lech, “but she had the flu last week and has been dealing with some things with her shin, so [her performance has] been a little bit erratic.”
Conner, from Townsend, Mass., accomplished a key season goal with Friday’s run in the 5,000.
“She’s trying to get down at least in the top 16, hopefully, in the country, because the NCAA qualifiers take the top 16 times in the country,” Lech said.
Conner’s 16:14.19 would vault her into the No. 8 position in the most recent national rankings that appeared Friday afternoon on u.milesplit.com.
Her personal best indoors is a 16:06.18 run at the BU Terrier Classic in January 2011. Her best 5K ever, 16:01.37, came at The Penn Relays Carnival last April.
Gagne, Reed set marks
Two members of the UMaine men’s team go into Saturday’s action coming off record-setting performances.
Justin Gagne of Biddeford unleashed a shot put of 17.49 meters, or 57 feet, 4.5 inches, a heave that was a personal best and set a school record.
The junior eclipsed his previous top effort of 55-8 recorded last April at the UNH Wildcat Invitational.
“He’s been knocking on the door since last year,” Lech said. “It’s all coming together this year.”
Reed, a native of Garmisch, Germany, continues to trim down his Black Bear record in the 60-meter hurdles.
He first set the mark with an 8.10 clocking January 19 in the hurdles finals at the Bates Invitational. The senior followed that up by bettering it at the Boston University Terrier Classic.
Reed ran a 7.97 in the preliminaries to set the record, before finishing second in the finals with a time of 8.00.
Lech said while a handful of the Black Bears have been at or near the top of their game, the goal is to start peaking for the conference, regional and national championships.
“We’re just getting into the meat of the season where they’re really rounding into fitness,” Lech said. “I expect next week at our conference championship that’s where everybody’s going to break out. That’s where we’re really trying to focus things.”
Looker looking good
Aleta Looker of Ellsworth took her show on the road last weekend and made a good showing against a talented field at the BU Terrier Invitational.
The junior was victorious in her section of the 800 meters, surging to a time of 2:18.10 — the fastest run by any schoolgirl in the state this season.
Looker, who wound up 29th overall at the meet, now ranks No. 7 in New England and No. 41 in the country in the 800.
Her indoor mile time of 5:19 is the second best in Class B and ranks fourth in the state overall, while she also is the No. 6 two-miler (11:36.95) in Maine, regardless of class.
Teams competing in the PVC/EMITL are headed down the home stretch as Saturday’s meets are the regular-season finales. Both begin at 4 p.m. at the UMaine field house.
The conference championship will be contested Feb. 9 starting at 2 p.m., also at UMaine.