ORONO, Maine — Orono was among the bright spots in the region Saturday, both in terms of the weather and in regard to performances on and around the track.
The University of Maine track and field teams turned in strong outdoor season debuts during a meet against the University of New Hampshire and Bates College of Lewiston at the Beckett Family Track and Field Complex.
Coach Mark Lech’s squads received numerous noteworthy performances from competitors on both the men’s and women’s sides. Several athletes qualified for larger meets later in the season and beat or challenged some of UMaine’s best performances.
“For the first outdoor meet, I was pleased right across the board,” Lech said.
Senior Corey Conner made an impression in her return to action after redshirting during the 2010-11 seasons. She set a school record while winning the 5,000 meters, covering the 3.1 miles in 16 minutes, 16.87 seconds.
That effort not only eclipsed the mark of 16:20.48 set by Patty McCormick in 1995, it qualified Conner for the ECAC Championships later this spring.
“For her to run that fast, just cruising through with no competition, is a good thing,” Lech said.
Conner also took top honors in the 1,500 meters in 4:33.68, which ranks among the top three women’s times in UMaine program history.
“She’s at a different level,” Lech said of Conner’s ability to excel in those two races.
Robyn McFetters also earned a spot in the ECACs by virtue of throwing the hammer 168 feet, 1 inch. It also is a top-three UMaine performance, while Katie Grime’s 129-1 in the discus ranks among the top five throws in program history.
In the pole vault, which was held indoors because of cold weather early in the meet, Angelica Nelligan-Smith went over the bar at 11 feet, one-quarter inch, a PR that ranks second all-time at UMaine. Marie Dufresne-Dixon’s 10-0 vault was a top-five effort.
Alli Fereshetian ran the 100-meter hurdles in 14.48 seconds, a top-five time at UMaine, while Jillian O’Brien won the 400 (1:01.63) and was fourth in the 200.
Among the men, David Currier of Oakland and Spencer McElwain claimed first and second respectively in the 10,000 meters and qualified for the IC4As in the process.
Currier was clocked in 30:59.84, fourth-best in program history, while McElwain’s 31:07.67 ranks fifth in UMaine running annals.
“Conditions were absolutely perfect for it,” Lech said. “It was cold, no wind, nice day.”
Justin Gagne picked up a pair of IC4A qualifications in two throws. He placed second in the shot put at 54-4, third-best at UMaine, and logged a top-10 effort with his heave of 157-6 to take second in the discus.
“Justin Gagne, after being out from the indoor season, he’s basically up at a high level,” said Lech, who added Ethan Moore and Wilson Adams also challenged personal bests in the debut.
James Berry claimed second place on the school pole vault list after clearing 15-5 to win that event. In the hammer throw, Moore uncorked a 178-2 toss to qualify for the IC4As and assume fifth place in UMaine history.
“Those were good first-meet performances for them, especially in the events that you don’t get to practice too much indoors, like the hammer,” Lech said. “You have to let it go, and not into a net, to figure out what to do with it.”
The Bears continue the season Saturday with a nonscoring meet at UNH.
“It’s hard to go back-to-back like that, but still you want to do something,” Lech said. “I’m going to try to move some people around and do some different things with them.”