Every time he steps on the track, Riley Masters seems to add to an already impressive resume.
The University of Maine distance runner last weekend added another accomplishment to what has already been a successful freshman year.
The former Bangor High runner faced a talented 1,500-meter field at the LSU Alumni Gold Meet in Baton Rouge, and Masters emerged from that field victorious, finishing in 3 minutes, 48.52 seconds, just ahead of runner-up Tonny Okello (3:48.54).
The race included runners from LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and McNeese State universities.
“I was a little intimidated when I got to the line [but] we were out in warm weather so it felt a lot better than running up here,” said Masters.
Not to be outdone, classmate Corey Conner of Townsend, Mass., captured the women’s 1,500 in 4:35.75 while Jesse Labreck of Oakland was eighth in the 100 hurdles in 14.37 seconds and 10th in the triple jump (37 feet, 10 inches).
Allyson Howatt took 19th in the 100 dash (12.28) and 10th in the 200 (24.99) while Vicki Tolton posted a 53.79 in the 400 to finish fifth.
Both Masters and Conner have qualified to participate in the 1,500 and Labreck has qualified in the triple jump for the USA Junior Nationals at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field in June.
“Hopefully I’ll get out there and run a quick time, and running at Hayward Field will be quite the experience,” Masters said.
He explained the meet at LSU really opened his eyes from a competitive standpoint.
“When I came out on top I was a little shocked. I felt excited to race such good competition,” he said.
While Masters’ race came down to the FinishLynx camera, Conner listened to some advice from her classmate at the 800-meter mark, and carried it home to the victory.
After the field went out somewhat slow Conner, with some encouragement from Masters, decided it was time to make a move as the race entered its waning moments.
“I stayed with the pack until the 800 mark, and I realized they weren’t going to take off so I was like, maybe I should go after it,” said Conner.
“I kind of took off with a little left in the last lap and carried it from there.”
Conner just missed her personal best of 4:33, but has aspirations of cracking the 4:30 barrier.
“I’d really like to, I’m hoping I can,” she said.
The atmosphere in Baton Rouge was certainly that of a big-time meet.
“It was exciting because it was just like a very different environment than up here,” Conner said. “It was very exciting and the track was huge.”
The venues will only get bigger in next couple of months, as Conner and Masters will grace the same hallowed track at Hayward Field at the Junior Nationals around which legends such as Steve Prefontaine once blazed.
Masters, Conner and Labreck will be among a throng of Black Bears competing at this weekend’s Penn Relays, where Conner will run the 4×800 relay and Masters the 5,000 meters.
Labreck, who has jumped 39-3 in the triple jump this spring, has enjoyed a solid start to the season after missing almost the entire indoor campaign with mononucleosis.
“Hurdles was OK, I thought it was pretty good, but it still wasn’t what I wanted just yet,” Labreck said of her effort in the 100 hurdles at LSU.
Labreck has mixed emotions about this weekend’s Penn Relays.
“I’m really excited, [but] I’m nervous, too, though,” said the former Messalonskee High star.
Howatt, Tolton and Caribou’s Lindsay Burlock are the other UMaine individuals competing in the Penn Relays.
UM women’s track, XC honored
The UMaine women’s cross country and indoor track teams were honored by the NCAA for their respective academic performances.
The NCAA honors Division I teams with public recognition awards for their latest multiyear Division I Academic Progress Rate (APR).
The APR tracks the academic progress of each student-athlete. It includes eligibility, retention and graduation in the calculation and provides a clear picture of the academic culture in each sport.
The 767 teams publicly recognized this year for their achievements represent 11.9 percent of the approximately 6,484 Division I athletic programs nationwide.