Men’s track finish second at Uconn Northeast Challenge in record-breaking weekend

Fifth-year Jonathan Buchanan was URI’s top finisher in the hammer throw, finishing fifth overall with a 59.52 meter throw. PHOTO CREDIT:

The University of Rhode Island track and field team rewrote the record book this past weekend in Storrs, Connecticut at the UConn Northeast Challenge.

One week after the URI men’s track and field team placed first at the UMass Spring Invitational, they traveled the 42.8 miles south to compete in Storrs at the UConn Northeast Challenge. As a team, they would place second out of the 19 schools that would compete, finishing with 93 points while UConn won with 112 points. While URI didn’t win the meet, they still had a dozen record breaking individual performances.

URI has a storied history in track and field with 28 Atlantic 10 titles and 25 New England titles as well. Yet with all of that history it’s hard to believe there was ever a time where in one meet the team would rewrite the record book the way URI did this past weekend. 12 different athletes had all-time top-10 performances and all 12 of those athletes set new personal bests for themselves. 

It started with the distance runners, where fifth-year Eric Zulkofske finished the 3,000 meter steeplechase with a time of 9:21.48 minutes, which placed him 5th all-time in URI history. That spot was previously held by Jamie Harvy, who set the mark at 9:23.4 minutes back in May of 1992. Fourth-year Ben Fleischer was one of two athletes who climbed to second on the all-time list this past weekend. Fleischer ran the 5,000 meter in 14:20.40 minutes, which is eight seconds behind the all-time record, currently held by Greg Hale who set it in 1983. 

For the short distance runners, second-year sprinter Tristen Howard ran the 100 meter in 10.48 seconds and is now fourth all-time for URI in that event. For the 200 meter, third-year Jolon O’Connor ran it in 21.06 seconds and second-year Jarrett Young ran it in 21.14 seconds which placed them third and fourth at the meet. That also places O’Connor fifth and Young at seventh all-time for URI. 

The two of them were also a part of the 4×100 meter relay team alongside Howard and third-year athlete Derek Chalmers. That team placed fourth at the meet and had the fourth-best time in URI history, which was the best performance for URI in the event since May of 2018. 

URI continued to reach the podium in other field events such as the triple jump. Fourth-year Orion Joyner placed first at the meet with a jump of 14.93 meters, which put him sixth all-time for URI. The second place finisher in that event was fellow Ram Barry Ndeh, who is a fourth-year transfer from Saint Francis University. Ndeh jumped 14.86 meters, which was good enough for seventh all-time in the URI record book. 

Both of them set new personal bests with those jumps. In the long jump, third-year Derek Chalmers and third-year Isiah Webster finished third and fourth. Chalmers jumped 7.43 meters which puts him third all-time in the record books and Webster jumped 7.37 meters, good enough for fifth all-time. Webster and Chalmers spearhead a group of long jumpers that currently rank 12th in the entire country for Division-1, the next closest A-10 school is Saint Joseph’s at 85th.

The only group that ranks higher nationally for URI is their javelin group. Their coach Ben Carroll, who has coached at URI for 13 years, says that group could possibly be the best individual group in URI history. Carroll also believes that this team as a whole could be the best he’s coached in his tenure here at URI. 

“They have a lot of maturity, a lot of experience, a group that does not play around when it comes to work ethic,” Carroll said about his javelin throwers. “I have been sort of joking since last June that this is going to be the best event group we’ve ever had at URI and they have not disappointed.”

The javelin team has been in the top three for three weeks now after they reached first place back on the first weekend of April at the Bryant Black and Gold Invitational. They are led by fourth-year Lucas Frost, who threw the javelin 70.59 meters two weeks ago, a toss that puts him second on the all-time list. 

At the UConn Northeast Challenge, third-year Nikolaj Freschlin placed second with a toss of 69.04 meters. Freschlin’s throw places him third all-time on the URI javelin list and his teammate, first-year Adam Dobuis placed third with a toss of 68.04 meters. This isn’t Dobuis best toss this season, two weeks prior Dobuis threw 68.84 meters which put him fifth all-time in URI history. Dobuis’ numbers are excellent according to his coach and shocking when you learn that he just started throwing a javelin a year ago. 

“For someone who is so young in the sport he’s picked up quite a bit in a short amount of time,” said coach Carroll. “He has an extreme amount of natural god given talent, it’s like the perfect combination of everything you want in an athlete.”

Coach Carroll has been the throwing coach at URI since 2011, so this kind of praise carries a lot of significance. First-year Adam Dobuis became a track and field athlete a year ago when his brother, the throwing coach at North Smithfield high school, convinced him to give it a shot. Prior to track and field, Dobuis led his high school to state championship in golf and was unsure if he’d get to play sports at the collegiate level. Now a year later he’s a member of the number two javelin team in the country.

“It’s a pretty surreal experience to be in the position, I thought my days as an athlete were coming to end,” Dobuis said. “Luckily the show goes on and it’s pretty awesome to be a part of such a good Division I program.”

Dobuis and the rest of the javelin team are relatively young and the team will retain all of their members going into next season. For now, however, coach Carroll believes they have yet to see the best from this team and that they will be tested three weeks from now, when they travel to Amherst, Massachusetts to compete in the outdoor Atlantic 10 conference championship. 

Before they get to Amherst, they will compete in three more meets. The next meet will be on April 22 in Worcester, Massachusetts at the Holy Cross Invitational scheduled for 10 a.m.