Track And Field Hosts CCSU Blue Devil Invitational

Patrick Gustavson, Sports Editor

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In one final gear up for the Northeast Conference Championship, both the Central Connecticut men’s and women’s track and field teams welcomed Hartford as they hosted the CCSU Blue Devil Invitational.

Entering the meet, head coach Eric Blake said it would be difficult for his athletes to chase personal best finishes due to windy conditions, but that did not stop them from trying.

“The team seemed to do, overall, well. These weren’t the ideal conditions and it was a small meet so it’s a different feel than it will be next week. But they did a good job,” Blake said.

One of the storylines heading in was junior Richard Grudzwick attempting to qualify for the NCAA meet in the 800-meter run.

“This morning, I almost thought ‘should we try to call it off a little bit to go for the personal record with this wind and just go for the win in the race.’ But I figured to keep the effort and keep that same mentality going in,” Blake said of Grudzwick’s attempt.

Though he did not break his personal best time, Grudzwick won the event with a time of 1:58.44. Blake said Grudzwick “went for it” and was pleased with his effort.

Though not many personal bests were achieved, the small number of competitors allowed for an abundance of Blue Devil first-place finishers.

Blake cited junior Kaitlyn Stevens, who got her first collegiate win in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 11:02.03.

The Blue Devils will now turn around and host the NEC Championship meet next weekend. Blake said they will need many strong performances on both sides in order to take home conference supremacy.

On the men’s side, Blake said while the top athletes have not been putting up event-winning marks, he said that is okay and it will come down to the event. He cited senior Akiel Smith, who won both the 100 and 200-meter dashes at the event, as one who needs to perform well.

On the women’s side, he cited Sierra Nesmith, who did not compete on Saturday after running at the Penn Relays on Thursday. In addition, junior Megan Brawner, sophomore Angelia Rafter and senior Dawn Hubbell will be keys to potential victory, per Blake.

Rafter and Brawner finished one-two in the 800-meter run, with freshman teammate Ashley Dana taking the bronze.

Hubbell, meanwhile, placed second in the 1,500-meter run.

Blake said there is “not a lot of room for error” for the women’s team.

Blake said both teams will need things to “come together” in order to win but says the teams will change much from their regimen in the week leading up to the meet.

“The week usually goes by pretty quick. I don’t think we need ‘rah-rah’ speeches all week. They’re a motivated group. You’ll see next week the team really gets up for this meet more than any other,” Blake said.

But Blake has confidence that his team will come out and give themselves a chance to win.

“I feel they’re ready to go,” he said.