MORAGA, Calif. - The long-awaited beginning of the spring track season saw the Saint Mary's men's and women's track teams compete at two meets over the past two weekends: the Kim Duyst Invitational hosted by Cal State Stanislaus and the Aggie Open hosted by UC Davis.
The benefits of a mild winter coupled with ideal training conditions have put the Gaels in a great position to see improvements across the board. Fortunately, great weather held out for the beginning of the inaugural track season and the athletes did not disappoint.
For the women, strong middle distance races have been the headlines in this young season. Sophomore Alicia Doohan picked up where she left off last spring in the 1500m running 4:52.41 in her first race of the season at Stanislaus. She continued an impressive day running 2:22.81 for 800m. Redshirt junior Maria Ahlqvist placed 12th in the same 1500m race running 5:02.04 while sophomore Emma Kroloff ran 5:15.35 in her first collegiate race. Sophomore Alex Choy ran 5:25.13 placing 22nd overall.
Not to be outdone by her Stanislaus performance, Doohan followed up the next week at Davis with an impressive 10:37.39 3000m finishing 23rd overall. Choy finished in 11:29.20 while freshman Cristina Garcia, battling an ankle injury, finished in 11:12.31. Sophomore Maureen May ran season-bests in two events on both weekends. She placed 20th overall in the 800m (2:27.22) and 23rd in the 1500m (5:03.16) at Davis.
Steeplechaser Erin Burke competed over the barriers at two different race distances. Her 12:36.74 3000m steeplechase puts her seven seconds behind her own school record for the event. A week later, she finished a 2000m steeplechase in 7:55.81 at Davis placing 13th.
Three women competed in back-to-back 5000m races - Elizandra Obando, Jacqueline Danens, and Madison Thompson. Both Obando and Danens set lifetime PRs at Stanislaus running 19:03.96 and 20:46.81, respectively, while Thompson set a collegiate PR the next week in 21:30.02. Also, the four member 4x400 relay of Alison Beard, Kate Brenot, Cristina Tognetti, and Michelle Weir ran 5:05.75 placing 7th overall.
The men's side was highlighted by redshirt sophomore Rajpaul Pannu's 5000m at the Kim Duyst Invitational. Building off a record setting cross country season, Pannu started strong out the gates, placing 8th in 14:58.62 slotting himself second all-time in the Gaels record book.
Not to be outdone, junior Jordan Lerma and freshmen TJ Brown-Pinizzotto broke the 16-minute barrier racing 15:42 and 15:53, respectively. Other notable 5000m runners setting personal-bests include Justin Jayme (16:03), Gilbert Mundo (16:09), Chris Garcia (16:12), and newcomers Andrew Eckberg (16:12.81) and Trevor Araujo (16:15.81).
The men's highlight race at the Aggie Open was the 3000m where four Gaels raced to PRs. Though not often contested, Lerma placed 34th in 9:05.28, Mundo was 40th in 9:13.60, Brown-Pinizzotto was 42nd in 9:20.16, and Jayme finished 46th in 9:32.82. Also, senior Agustin Cazarez ran back-to-back personal bests in the 800m for his first two collegiate races, finishing the Aggie Open in 2:10.32.
"That's a great way to start the season off. The addition of our track program has really energized our athletes to train harder and race faster than they ever have. It's not a particularly long season so to start off where we are is a great sign of things to come," said head coach Marty Kinsey.
The Gaels will return to action on Saturday, March 24 at the Johnny Mathis Invite hosted by San Francisco State.