If this weekend’s performance is anything like her previous three, then Jessie Gaines should consider changing her name to Betty White.
After all, when it comes to the NEC Indoor Track & Field Championships, Gaines has been LIU Brooklyn’s Golden Girl.
The fourth-year Blackbird enters the 2012 NEC Indoor title meet as the reigning three-time MVP looking to lift her team to a third consecutive crown.
Gaines has won eight gold medals and a pair of silvers over her past two appearances at the conference title meet, and her seed marks indicate she could very well repeat that in 2012. There is a lot of distance separating her the top-seeded Gaines from the rest of the field in both the 60-meter hurdles and triple jump. In fact, Gaines held the fourth-best triple jump mark (13.14m) in all of NCAA Division I heading into the weekend.
The “Golden Girl” Jessie Gaines
The Blackbirds only competition for the team title over the past 11 years has been Monmouth. LIU has won six titles over the past 10 years and the Hawks have taken the other four.
Monmouth, which was tabbed second in the coaches’ predicted order-of-finish, will once again bring a deep squad in an attempt to take over the Blackbirds’ perch. LIU, which has no potential scorers in the throws, will need its sprint and jumps teams to deliver Lucky No. 7.
Four Must-see Women’s Events
800-meter Run – The 800-meter field could be as competitive as its ever been at this meet. Seven women have seed times below 2:20 and five have already come in lower than the 2:17.81 that Monmouth’s Amanda Eller won with last year. Eller, one of four NEC women to have automatically qualified for the ECAC Championships in March, owns the No. 3 seed (2:13.32) with Hawk teammate Emily MacEwen, the 2011 silver medalist, right behind in the No. 4 slot (2:14.31). Central Connecticut senior Alasia Griebel delivered a huge PR (2:13.15) earlier this month and ranks second behind top-seeded Desi Scott (2:11.22), a sophomore from Mount St. Mary’s. The conference record (2:13.21) from 2007 may not make it through the weekend.
Shot Put – Defending champion Christin Bridge is the pre-meet favorite, but the Saint Francis (PA) senior is one of four in the field to have broken the 14-meter barrier this season. Bridge (14.88m) will likely find herself in a battle with Monmouth’s Sandra Jean-Romain (14.21m) and Rachel Aliotta (14.06m) who finished third and fourth in 2011. Sacred Heart sophomore Lindsay Aponte (14.13m) is back for her second go-round following a sixth-place showing as a rookie.
Long Jump – LIU has the field’s top two in an event that is a key component of the Blackbirds’ team title equation. Both Gaines (6.16m) and fellow LIU senior Jazmin Waller (6.11m) have leapt over 20 feet this season. The former is the defending champion and currently sits 14th on the NCAA leader board. Not does this event showcase two of the nation’s best, but it will also go a “long” way (pun intended) in determining the team champion.
60-meter hurdles – Jessie Gaines has put on an absolute show in this event each of the past three years, culminating with her 8.34 meet record in 2011. The Blackbirds posted a 1-2-3 finish last February with Torrie Saunders and Jazmin Waller joining Gaines on the media stand. All three are back, comprising the top three seeds. Will Gaines set a new standard in 2012? And more importantly, at least in the mind of LIU head coach Simon Hodnett, will the Blackbirds be able to recapture those same 24 points?
Monmouth and LIU Brooklyn have held an oligopoly over the women’s team title for the past decade, but the men’s title has had four different homes in each of the past four years.
One place the trophy hasn’t been during that time is at the Jersey Shore. After winning t here consecutive crowns from 2005 through 2007, Monmouth has settled for four straight runner-up finishes.
It started with the “Arman Dixon Show” in 2008 when the sprinting/long jumping extraordinaire carried Sacred Heart past the Hawks for the title. Then, Saint Francis (PA) took its turn at the top. LIU Brooklyn captured the program’s first-ever men’s title in 2010 and Central Connecticut, two years removed from an 11th-place finish, pulled off a surprising victory in 2011.
Defending champion Central Connecticut has many of its horses back for its repeat attempt, but it was Monmouth who ascended to the top of the pre-meet coaches’ poll.
While Central’s most-accomplished athlete, two-time MVP Aaron Radden, will attempt to pile up the points in the sprints, Monmouth will look to two-time Most Outstanding Field Performer of the Meet Vinny Elardo in the throws. Heading into the weekend, Elardo owns the top seed marks in both throwing events and is only one of three NCAA Division I athletes who have eclipsed 60 feet in the shot put and weight throw.
Two-time NEC Indoor MVP Aaron Radden
Although the coaches’ predict a two-horse race for the team title between CCSU and Monmouth, another winner could emerge. After all, the Blue Devils were that team last year.
Sacred Heart brings plenty of potential scorers annually and this year is no different. Saint Francis (PA), a five-time champion, can never be overlooked. The Flash’s Keystone State rival Robert Morris may also be in the mix following a runner-up finish at the 2011 NEC Outdoor Championships.
Four Must-See Men’s Events
60-meter Dash – Don’t Blink, because you will miss it. The fastest event in indoor track features a few burners. LIU Brooklyn junior Nickolei Mahlung, a NYC native, has the top seed time (6.73), a mark that ranks 30th in NCAA Division I. The No. 2 seed, Radden, is actually the defending champion, having run a 6.89 in the 2011 final. This year, he enters with a 6.85 seed time, and is the most battle-tested in the field. Also keep an eye on LIU senior Jarenn Stewart (6.93) and Mount St. Mary’s rookie Coby Rosemier-Gussio (6.98), who are both IC4A Championship qualifiers.
60-meter Hurdles – Last year this event yielded a thrilling competition between Sacred Heart teammates Bertony Jean-Louis and Jeremy Rosado. Both men are back as the top two seeds, having posted sub-8 second times on numerous occasions this season. Jean-Louis, the two-time defending champion, has run as fast as 7.92 with Rosado having logged a 7.98, making both men a threat to smash the meet record (7.98) that Jean-Louis set last February.
Long Jump – Look out Arman Dixon. The record you set in 2008 is in jeopardy. LIU Brooklyn junior Brain Richards, the 2011 runner-up, enters with a No. 1 seed mark of 7.50m. Should he repeat that performance, which ranks 24th in Division I, today, he would tie Dixon’s mark from four years ago.
Shot Put – The title has rarely left Hawk hands and two-time defending champion Vinny Elardo looks to keep it in West Long Branch at least one more year. Elardo put the shot 17.50m to win last year’s title, but enters the 2012 installment having thrown 18.31m. Currently standing 17th overall on the national leader board, Elardo will look to improve his positioning while giving the Hawks some highly-coveted team points.
Here is some post-meet reaction from 2011…
Championship Entries/Performance List
Day 1 Heat Sheets