Women’s track finish ninth at ECAC Championships

Hannah Birdsall was part of the 4×800 meter relay team that finished first over the weekend. PHOTO CREDIT: gorhody.com

University of Rhode Island’s women’s track and field team traveled up to Boston University over the weekend to compete in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship.

The Rams finished ninth out of the 43 teams that scored in the meet with 27 points. The 4×800 meter relay team made up of fourth-year captain Hanna O’Connor (2:15.31 minutes), fourth-year Hannah Birdsall (2:13.07 minutes), second-year Erin Hurley (2:15.70 minutes) and first-year Lily Saul (2:11.78 minutes) made history, finishing in first place (8:55:86 minutes) in their respective event for the first time in program history.

O’Connor came in with the goal of breaking the 4×800 meter school record time, but they fell two seconds short. She remains optimistic about the group’s future.

“All of us ran a personal best [time] in the 4×800 [meter relay] and luckily we will have the same team in the spring and next year,” O’Connor said. “We’re fairly young. I’m the only one that’s been on the 4×800 team in the past. It was great to show them the ropes and see how much potential we have this year.”

Going into the race, O’Connor knew the competition would be tough and preparing mentally was just as important as preparing physically.

“You see some of the best girls on the East Coast so it can be intimidating,” O’Connor said. “It’s a very mental sport. I try to focus on myself and my team and block everyone else out.”

As a captain, O’Connor has also been trying to change the culture of the team.

“We’ve been focusing on having positive attitudes,” O’Connor said. “We’ve made an effort to have everyone on the team cheering each other on, whether you’re competing or not. It encouraged our relay to do well because we had our whole team cheering them on.”

While there were no other first place finishes for the team, there was plenty of success in other events. Fourth-year Xiana Twombly finished third in the long jump (5 meters 50/18′ 1/2″), third-year thrower Megan Wood finished in fourth in the shot put (13 meters 62/44’8 1/4″), and fifth-year Trinity Smith broke URI’s 60 meter hurdle record with a time of 8.43 seconds. Rhode Island head coach Laurie Feit-Melnick praised Smith’s effort in the meet and throughout the season.

“She’s a very high level athlete,” Feit-Melnick said. “She has an outstanding work ethic, and set high goals for herself.”

Feit-Melnick was also quick to recognize the success the team as a whole had throughout the weekend.

“It was a competitive meet,” Feit-Melnick said. “We were pleased to place ninth. With the number of people we took, we had a phenomenal meet.”

Along with the top finishers for the team, there were multiple runners that had personal bests in their respective event.

Third-year Sydney Federico ran a personal best of 1:16.46 minutes in her 500 meter preliminary to finish 11th overall. Third-year Virsavia Goretoy ran a personal best of 8.89 seconds in her 60 meter hurdles preliminary. Second-year Lindsay Turgeon ran a personal best of 2:54.11 minutes in her 1000 meter preliminary which makes her the 9th best URI individual all-time.

Now that the ECAC Championship is at an end, the season is also nearing an end, but not complete yet. Coach Feit-Melnick will take a select group of her team to travel down to the University of Central Florida Invitational in Orlando, Florida on March 17. 

She also has her eyes set on the outdoor spring season. There is a lot of talent and potential for growth, according to Feit-Melnick.

“The biggest thing is keeping everyone healthy,” Feit-Melnick said. “We have certain areas that need more depth, but going into the outdoor season we are looking to improve our six out of 15 placement. We’re looking forward to training, and we know how fast May will be here.” 

Next up, the Rams will conclude their indoor season with a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico at the NCAA championships on March 10-11.