Maine native Riley Masters has emerged as the top performer in the country after another impressive race on Friday.
The University of Oklahoma senior established himself as one of the men to beat in the 1,500 meters in the NCAA Division I ranks again this spring when he crossed the finish line in 3 minutes, 40.77 seconds to win at the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif.
The former Bangor High School and University of Maine star, who won by more than two seconds, clocked the second-best time of his career. Last spring, he ran a 3:37.19 at the Oxy Invitational.
As shown in a video on flotrack.org, Masters hung back in the middle of the pack over the first 800 meters, then surged in front with about 500 meters left. He pulled comfortably in front on the final lap and smoothly cruised in for the win.
The performance also earns Masters a spot in the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships scheduled for June 20-23 at Des Moines, Iowa. His time met the “A” standard of 3:41.20.
Masters, a three-time All-American, is the reigning Big 12 outdoor champion in the 1,500. The former University of Maine runner, who is a senior at Oklahoma, ran unattached during the indoor season.
In February, Masters ran the fastest mile ever by a Maine runner and the No. 2 time in the world at the time with a 3:56.25 at the Tyson Invitational Mile. The effort still ranks as the sixth best in 2013 by an American.
Masters also registered his best time in the two-mile run on Feb. 16 at the Millrose Games in New York. There, he finished seventh in 8:37.30.
Conner shines in 10K debut
Prior to Saturday, Corey Conner of the University of Maine had never competed in the 10,000 meters.
During a span of 35 minutes, the senior from West Townsend, Mass., had set a school record in the grueling event.
Conner shone during UMaine’s only home meet of the spring season as she obliterated the UMaine all-time mark in the 10K with a time of 34:46.20 at the Beckett Family Track and Field Complex.
“It’s a testament to her ability. It was more of a workout than anything else,” said UMaine coach Mark Lech, who pointed out Conner’s time is the only one among the top 54 in Division I that was not recorded last weekend as part of high-powered fields at the Stanford Invitational and the Raleigh Relays.
Conner’s run sliced more than one minute, 22 seconds off the previous standard of 36:08.06 set by Patty McCormick in 1998. Conner now ranks 29th in Division I.
Lech encouraged Conner, who has been concentrating on the 5,000 meters, to consider running the 10,000 to expand her opportunities as she moves forward.
“She may only be able to get so fast in the 5K, but I feel and she reluctantly feels like she’s got really good stamina for the 10K and that might be, eventually, if she continues to run it, where her aptitude lies,” Lech said.
Lech said Conner will be among five UMaine athletes who will compete Friday and Saturdayin the Duke Invitational in Durham, N.C.
“She’ll have more competition down there,” said Lech, who also is sending Carolyn Stocker (10,000), Kelton Cullenberg of Chesterville (5K), Alex Moser of York Harbor (1,500) and Paul Kelley (400 hurdles).
Conner’s Saturday also included a victory in the 5,000. Her 17:13.10 clocking was fifth best in UMaine history and is the top time in Division I this spring. It qualifies her for the ECAC Championships.
Lech said the aim is to help Conner earn a spot in the NCAA Qualifier in the 10K, then have her also try to garner a spot in the 5K to improve her options.
“In order to get to the NCAA Qualifier you have to be in the top 45 in the East Region,” he explained. “I think if she runs about 33 minutes, that will get in her in there, then we’ll kind of concentrate the next few weeks after that on the 5K.”
UMaine sweeps in home meet
Other UMaine athletes turned in strong efforts during Saturday’s meet against the University of New Hampshire and Bates College of Lewiston.
The Black Bear women won the meet with 147 points, followed by UNH (136) and Bates (112).
The UMaine men pulled out a narrow victory as the teams were separated by only three points. The Bears scored 140, followed by UNH (138) and Bates (137).
Vasiliki Papakotsi of Athens, Greece, became UMaine’s all-time outdoor leader in the pole vault as she cleared the bar at 11 feet, 9 3/4 inches. Her vault surpasses the record of 11-5 3/4 turned in by Shira Panelli in 2004.
The pole vault was held inside the field house because of windy conditions.
“She’s had a long road back during the indoor season and has just gotten back to the point she was before,” Lech said of Papatoksi, who had been injured during the 2011-12 indoor season and missed the 2012 outdoor campaign.
Sophomore Robyn McFetters won the hammer throw at 170-2, a school top-five heave that puts her in the ECACs.
Other UMaine event winners included Katherine McGeoghan in the high jump (5-5), Ashten Hackett of Auburn (long jump, 16-5 3/4), Ali Fereshetian of Turner (100 hurdles, 14.85), Jaclyn Masters of Auburn (100 meters, 12.87), and Mary Fagan of Camden (400, 1:07.58).
In the men’s meet, Brian Martel scored 6,167 points in the decathlon. His effort ranks No. 3 in UMaine history and earned him a runner-up finish.
The Bears also received first-place performances from Miguel Caballero of Orono (long jump, 22-0 3/4), Darian Murray (triple jump, 42-10 3/4), Moser (1,500; 3:58.86), Kelley (400 hurdles, 55.85), and Cullenberg (5,000; 15:00.82).
In the shot put, Donald Clark of Winslow had a top-five throw of 53-1 to place second and Brian Woodbury of Scarborough took third (51-7). Both qualified for the IC4As.
Reed garners UMaine mark
James Reed of UMaine continued his productive senior year on Friday during the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays held at the University of Texas.
Reed, of Garmisch, Germany, established a school record in the 110-meter hurdles by posting a time of 14.19 seconds in winning his heat and placing 13th in the prelims. The effort bettered his 14.34 set two years ago.
Senior Jesse Labreck of Oakland competed in the 100-meter hurdles and placed second in her heat, 27th in the prelims, with a time of 13.90 that ranks third all-time at UMaine.
The original version of this story had Conner’s times as ranking No. 1 in Division I as of Saturday, but the figures were since updated, accounting for the disparity in the rankings.