Albany Predicted to Three-Peat in 2012
The Great Danes received six first-place votes giving them a total of 62 points just ahead of Boston University, which collected the remaining three first-place votes and 59 points overall. The University of New Hampshire placed third in the poll with 49 points followed by the University of Maine with 39 points. The University of Vermont tallied 34 points putting them in fifth place while Binghamton University is close behind in sixth with 28 points. UMBC (25 points), Stony Brook University (20 points) and the University of Hartford (8 points) close out the nine-team poll.
Albany returns all eight of its all-conference performers from last year’s conference championship team. That core include two individual champions, three members of the gold medal-winning 4x800 relay team and one member of the 4x400 championship quartet. Brianne Bellon (Greenfield, N.Y./Saratoga Springs) captured the conference crown in the 800-meter run while Kathryn Fanning (Manlius, N.Y./Fayetteville-Manlius/Richmond) did the same in the 1,000-meter run. Fanning and Bellon were joined by Jonelle White (Brooklyn, N.Y./Midwood) on the 4x800 team and Brittany Eveleth (Watervliet, N.Y./Watervliet) returns on the 4x400 team. Albany enters the season having won the previous two conference titles – it’s only two as a member of the America East Conference.
Boston U. has the talent to challenge Albany for the top spot as the Terriers return all five of their 2011 all-conference performers. That group is led by first-team all-American Katie Matthews (Rocky Hill, Conn./Rocky Hill). The senior captured conference gold in the 5,000-meter run before heading to nationals where she placed sixth in the same race to earn all-America status. Shelby Walton (Danbury, Conn./Danbury), one of the conference’s top sprinters, took top honors in the 60-meter dash last year while Allison Barwise (Orange, Conn./Amity Regional) placed first in the pentathlon. The Terriers are the only team, men’s or women’s, other than Albany to win a conference title since 2009.
New Hampshire, which finished fourth last season, checks into the poll in the three-spot. Returning the reigning conference champion in the 500-meter dash, Megan Donohue (Stratham, N.H./Exeter), and the runner-up in the pentathlon, Jacky Mendes (Dayton, Maine/Thornton Academy), the Wildcats could very well challenge Albany and Boston U. for conference supremacy. Darcy James (Exeter, N.H./Exeter) placed third in the 1,000-meter run a year ago and Rosemary Read (West Greenwhich, R.I./Warwick) also finished third in the weighted throw. UNH will be looking for its first indoor track and field title.
Maine grabs the fourth spot in the poll behind the return of 2011 second team all-American, Corey Conner (Townsend, Mass./North Middlesex Regional). The senior took the fall off from cross country but is back now after a tremendous season last year. Conner placed second in the one-mile run at the championship meet and then went on to place 11th at nationals. She is joined by a pair of all-conference performers returning to Orono this year. Jesse Labreck (Oakland, Maine/Messalonskee), the conference’s 2011 Field Performer of the Year, earned the most points of any competitor in last year’s meet collecting 38 total with wins in the 60-meter hurdles, long jump and a second-place finish in the high jump. Cearha Miller (Oxon Hill, Md.), meanwhile, finished second in both the 60 and 200-meter dashes.
Vermont finds itself slotted fifth a year this season. UVM’s lone all-conference performer from 2011 is back in Burlington to improve on her second-place finish in the 1,000-meter run. Marisa Guerette (West Chester, Pa./Unionville) finished just three hundredths of a second behind Albany’s Fanning last year. Meanwhile, keep an eye on Morgan Powers (Cincinnati, Ohio/Indian Hill) and Michele Langone (Burlington, Mass./Burlington). Powers turned in a great cross country season this fall and will be a force in the distance races while Langone returns after placing fifth in the 800-meter run last year.
Binghamton’s two all-conference performers from 2011 are back and aiming to help the Bearcats improve on their eighth-place team finish. On the track, Jessica Henning (Pine Bush, N.Y./Pine Bush) looks to repeat as the 400-meter dash champion. And in the field events, Jenna Marrione (Warwick, N.Y./Warwick Valley) could be considered the favorite in the pole vault after her second-place performance and the graduation of the 2011 champion.
UMBC, the seventh team in this year’s poll, has the pieces to build on its sixth-place finish in the 2011 championship. Success will start with reigning shot put champion junior Amanda Deller (Aberdeen, Md./Aberdeen). Kirsten Jones (Brentwood, Tenn./M.L.K Magnet) will try to improve on a solid showing in 2011 by building on her third-place finish in the 400-meter dash. The Retrievers’ best tream finish at the conference championship was fourth in 2008.
Despite being ranked eighth in the poll, Stony Brook boasts a veteran core of distance talent sure to make an impact this year. Returning for the Seawolves are the Van Dalen sisters – Holly and Lucy (Wanganui, New Zealand/Wanganui Collegiate). The latter was a first-team all-America a year ago in the 3,000-meter run and was named the Northeast region female Track Athlete of the Year. Holly, meanwhile, was the conference champion in the 3,000 and she competed at nationals in the 5,000 meter run. Joining the Van Dalens is Hayley Green (Wellington, New Zealand/Victoria University). The senior turned in an all-America season in cross country this fall and will be a key in the distance runs on the track as well. Meanwhile, all four members of the champion distance medley team return to Long Island for another crack at gold.
Hartford rounds out the poll. Priscilla Appiagyei (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor) placed sixth in the 400-meter dash last season, the Hawks’ top finish. She will lead the way in the sprints wile Jennifer Flores (East Meadow, N.Y.), who finished sixth in the 1,000-meter run, will carry the load in the distance races.
The America East Championship will be decided on Feb. 17-18 at Boston University’s Track and Tennis Center.