Demeo All-New England; school records fall

Megan Jenkins exchanges baton with Natalie Kopiec in relay. (Photo by Jen McGuinness)
Megan Jenkins exchanges baton with Natalie Kopiec in relay. (Photo by Jen McGuinness)

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - The New England Division III Track and Field Championships held at Williams College on Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6 saw three school records fall and Alex Demeo (Burlington, Mass.) place fourth in the 10,000 meters, garnering All-New England honors.

The grueling 6.2 mile race was contested Friday night. Demeo went out with the leaders and after a mile was in a second three person pack with two MIT runners.

Lap after lap, mile after mile Demeo led the other two, doing all the pace work as the two Engineers were content to sit behind her and cruise. After four miles, Demeo had dropped the second runner and was opening up a gap on the remaining MIT competitor. She made a move to pass Alex and opened up a lead which ultimately withered under Demeo's pressure. Demeo came roaring back, passed her opponent and left her behind.

The last mile was exhilarating as Alex kept up and even accelerated the pace, finishing almost a minute ahead of her previous best with a time of 38.20.73, smashing her own school record.

"Alex is a very unassuming and very smart athlete," commented head coach Matthew Hird. "It is difficult sometimes to know what she is thinking; she sets her own objectives and then blasts her way to tremendous achievements. What a joy she is to watch."

Following Demeo in the record breaking parade was Natalie Kopiec (Manchester, Conn.) in the 400 meter hurdles. Seeded last in the 19 person field, Kopiec took her heat of the event out harder than she normally does, overtaking half of her competitors after the third hurdle. As she drove down the back stretch more hurdlers were eclipsed as, with the staggered start, only by watching the sequence of hurdle clearances can one tell who is in the lead.

Kopiec was ahead by a considerable margin coming in the home stretch but her early pace began to take its toll. However she held on and crossed the line in a school best 66.25, finishing in 10 place overall and beating her own mark set last year.

"Natalie has struggled all year with painful shins which has limited her training and has severely limited her technique work over the hurdles. Nonetheless, we can always count on her to come up big when it counts. She is not large but has a huge heart," remarked Hird. "She is a perfectionist who is rarely satisfied, regardless of her considerable achievements."

The 4 x 400 meter relay was the last entry to rewrite a record. The team of Erin Gunther (Sayesville,N.Y.), Madison Stanley (Warwick, R.I.), Megan Jenkins (Walpole, Mass.) and Kopiec finished in 10th place in the last event of the meet after having been seeded 13th.

"Each one was totally spent after their leg; it took at least five minutes to get them upright," said Hird. "What a great effort."

Both Stanley and Gunther also competed in the triple jump. While they jumped off a 28' takeoff board for most of the year, they found it difficult adjusting to the 32' board found at the championships. While their best attempts were certainly respectable (Stanley 10.67m (35' 0.25") and Gunther 10.45 (34'3.5")) they weren't quite up to what the two athletes expect of themselves.

"What a great way to end the season," said Hird. "Three school records broken and the first All-New England athlete in many years. It can't get much better."

"This year has been a little difficult as injuries have made training hard for some and have rendered others unable to complete. However, the wonderful team culture which our members created and their complete dedication to their sport, their team mates, and their perseverance and drive for personal excellence made coaching them a dream."