Gold is at a premium in today’s economy, but Jessie Gaines has quite a bit of it. Long Island’s track & field extraordinaire will be vying for more of the 79th element this weekend when the Northeast Conference Indoor Championships commence in Landover, MD.
Gaines, only a junior, enters as the reigning two-time MVP of this meet and her Blackbirds have a team title to defend.
In what has been a nine-year running rivalry between the two, Long Island beat out Monmouth for the 2010 crown, the Blackbirds’ fifth since 2002. Gaines was sensational in spearheading LIU’s 149-effort, picking up four gold medals and almost a fifth. She won the 60-meter dash, 60-meter hurdles, 200-meter dash, the triple jump, and finished second to Dominiquebof Brooklyn rival St. Francis (NY) in the long jump.
In the end, her 48 points were the difference in lifting Long Island over second-place Monmouth, which tallied 130.5 points.
Heading into the 2011 title meet, Gaines has looked better than ever. She has won the NEC Track Athlete of the Week award three of the past four weeks and owns the No. 1 ranking in four events (long jump, triple jump, 60m dash, 60m hurdles). The Virginia native set PRs in both the hurdles (8.38) and triple jump (12.80m) at last week’s talent-loaded New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York City.
Gaines has a seed time of 25.41 in the 200-meter, slower than the 24.95 she ran last indoor season, but two of the ladies ranked ahead of her on the NEC performance list are Blackbirds, too. Gaines is sixth on the leader board behind LIU juniors Jazmin Waller (2nd) and Torrie Saunders (4th). LIU’s ability to rack up points in this event, and the sprints in general will go a long way in determining its final team standing.
Will Gaines and the Blackbirds come up golden again in Battle of the Birds Part X?
It certainly won’t be easy, not with the deep roster Monmouth will counter with.
The Hawks have three of the top four seeds in the 800-meter run as well as the defending 400-meter champion (Rachel Watkins). Freshman shot putter Rachel Aliotta is second on the performance list behind defending champion Christin Bridge of Saint Francis (PA). Monmouth will also have an opportunity to score big in the high jump with three ladies having already cleared 1.70m.
Sacred Heart has been in the team title mix as well lately. The Pioneers, who were tabbed third in the coaches’ predicted order-of-finish, feature decorated distance runner Kimberly DeLoreto. The former NEC individual XC champion (2009) owns the NEC’s top times in both the 3K and mile runs.
While DeLoreto is a veteran who’s definitely worth watching this weekend, Mount St. Mary’s pole vaulter Allison Vanek is a promising rookie to keep an eye on. The freshman has cleared the ECAC Championship qualifying standard of 3.60m in each of her last three meets and became the first NEC vaulter to clear 3.75m since former Mount St. Mary’s great Mandy Jenkins cleared 3.76m at the Penn State Invitational on January 26, 2007.
Check out the 2010 post-meet reaction…
On the men’s side, defending champion Long Island and perennial power Monmouth are the top two favorites for the team title. Monmouth actually edged out the defending champs in the pre-champion predicted order-of-finish.
Long Island’s Julius Mutekanga has logged blazing fast times in both the 500-meter and 800-meter this season and the three-time NEC Track Athlete of the Week enters as the conference’s top seed in both events. His senior teammate Corryl Boyd, a Maryland native who will be making a homecoming of sorts at the PG County Sports & Learning Complex this weekend, owns the league’s fastest 400m mark and is the defending long jump champion as well.
Freshman David Fajoyomi, a two-time NEC Field Athlete of the Week selection, looks to keep the men’s high jump crown in St. Francis (NY) possession for a third straight year. Having cleared 2.14m at each of his last two meets, only one of 40 NCAA Division I high jumpers to clear that height this season, is the pre-meet favorite to claim the title former Terrier great Dean Brown won each of the past two years.
Sacred Heart has the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked hurdlers in the NEC. Defending conference champion Bertony Jean-Louis set a program record by clocking in at 8.01s on two separate occasions this season. His sophomore teammate Jeremy Rosado, who has clocked in at 8.09s, will provide stiff competition.
The reigning NEC Men’s Indoor MVP Aaron Radden, who earned that prestigious moniker as a rookie last year, has run his best 60-meter time yet. Seeking gold again, he is also the top seed in the 200-meter dash.
Monmouth’s always-loaded throwing department features defending shot put champion Vincent Elardo. The fourth-year Hawk is only one of three NCAA Division I throwers to have eclipsed 60 feet in both the shot and weight this season.