The seniors on the University of Maine men’s track and field team have been training and competing together for the last four or five years. Many of them will gather as a group for the final time on Saturday when the Black Bears compete in the America East outdoor championships at the University of Vermont.
UMaine head coach Mark Lech concedes Albany is the favorite to claim a 10th consecutive men’s conference title, but he thinks his senior-led squad will be in the hunt for runner-up honors.
“I think what’s going to happen is it will be between us, [University of Maryland, Baltimore County] and Binghamton for second place,” said Lech, whose men’s team finished third in 2013.
UMaine has a handful of senior competitors who should challenge for individual titles. That group is led by thrower Justin Gagne of Biddeford, who is the top seed in the shot put (60 feet, 5 inches) and the discus (177-0), which he won in 2012.
“I think in the guys’ throws alone, we can get 55, close to 60, points,” Lech said.
That contingent also includes junior Wilson Adams (third) and senior Ethan Moore (fifth) in the hammer, Alex Parenteau in the javelin (fourth), sophomore Shane Corbett in the discus (fourth), senior Brian Woodbury of Scarborough in the discus and shot put (sixth in both), and freshman Aybars Gungor in the javelin (sixth).
Senior Nate Meade of Waldoboro heads the triple jump field at 49-5 1/2, while he is the No. 4 seed in the long jump (22-11 3/4). Senior Kelton Cullenberg of Chesterville is seeded fourth as the defending champ in the 5,000 meters.
“He’s only ranked like five seconds out of first place,” Lech said of Cullenberg.
Senior Alex Moser of York Harbor is the No. 4 seed in the 1,500, while senior Liam Nee of Cornish and junior Jake Leithiser of Old Town are fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 800.
In the sprints, seniors Daniel Roukey of Westbrook (second, 100 meters; sixth, 200 meters) and Frank Del Duca of Bethel (fifth, 100) also are on the third-seeded 4×100 relay that will include Meade and senior Jimmy Reed, who has been slowed by an injury. Reed also will run the 110 hurdles.
The Bears’ 4×400 unit is seeded second and likely will include Leithiser, Roukey, junior Joe Viola of Scarborough and either Auburn sophomore Michael Lucas or Scarborough junior Scott Merrill.
Sophomore Joe Slattery of Old Orchard Beach is the No. 3 seed in the decathlon.
Lech admits it will be difficult to lose this senior group.
“We’re going to sorely miss them next year,” he said.
“It usually takes a few years to get the freshmen up to that [highly competitive] level, and they’re finally at that level,” Lech explained.
UMaine has only a handful of top-five seeds in the women’s meet, which Albany has won five straight times.
The Bears are led by freshman Ashley Donohoe, who is seeded second in the discus and sixth in the discus, along with No. 3 seeds in senior Ashten Hackett of Auburn (100 hurdles), sophomore Jaclyn Masters of Auburn (pole vault) and sophomore Emily Boardman, who is fourth in the hammer. Senior Jess McCarthy should score in the heptathlon.
“I think [Donohoe is] coming on technique-wise, so I think she could break into the top three in either of those events,” Lech said.