NORTH ANDOVER – It’s become a tradition for Merrimack track and field head coach Jacky Mendes.
Monday morning’s roll around and Mendes is updating the school record list. Most Monday’s this season, she’s been updating the name at the top of the list in at least one event. Sometimes a handful. Sometimes even more than that.
In Merrimack’s first indoor meet this season, the UMass Boston Invitational, the Warriors shattered seven school records. That’s been a trend that has continued all season. Just last week, the Warriors topped four program records at the Tufts Invitational.
The Warriors are now heading into the most important part of the indoor schedule. After the Boston University Invitational this weekend, the Warriors will take part in the Northeast-10 Indoor Championships and the New England Championships on consecutive weekends to close out the month of February.
“One of my favorite things is coming in on Monday and updating our record board,” Mendes said. “Every single week that list changes. That just shows how much they have been working and how much they have been improving. All four classes are on that list.
“We had a really strong start which was exciting to see the team grow. Then we just kept going strong. We’ve had a few harder meets here and there, especially with not being able to practice the last three Mondays with the snow, but we’ve had some great performances at the Terrier Invitational at BU, and we’ll be back there this weekend. I’m very proud of them.
Sophomore Carly Muscaro picked up right where she left off last season. After advancing to the NCAA Championships in the 400 meters as a freshman less than one year ago, Muscaro is the top-ranked runner in the nation in that event this winter after posting a time of 54.10 seconds at the Terrier Classic, hosted by Boston University, two weeks ago.
“She really picked up right where she left off, which is difficult to do,” said Mendes. “She’s having another great year and is taking more time off all of her races, which is pretty incredible.”
Muscaro isn’t the only student-athlete on the Merrimack roster that has a provisional standard qualifying time or mark. Lauren MacGregor has a provisional mark in the triple jump and John Braga has made a provisional standard in the heptathlon.
“Lauren has already bettered her best performances from high school,” Mendes said. “She did that in January. That really says a lot about the way she has taken to training in college. She’s a great kid. Quiet, and has a great attitude. She’s a really great student, too. She’s a great representative for the program.”
“John has had a great year. He has improved in every single event from last year. He’s one of our top hurdlers, our best high jumper and he is on the record board for almost every single field event we have in indoor, which is a huge accomplishment. He’s having a great year and will try to make a run at nationals. It’s a hard task, but he’s another who has come a long way.”
Kenny Clarke is also having an outstanding freshman season for the Warriors. After joining the team at the conclusion of the football season – he’s a wide receiver for the Warriors in the fall – he’s been named the Northeast-10 Rookie of the Week for the last four weeks.
“I’m starting to think there is no other freshman in the conference or something,” Mendes joked.
“It’s always hard to come in off of playing football all fall,” she said. “We really only got him after winter break. He’s been great for us. Again, he’s still learning everything as we go but that shows the tremendous ability he has and how much better he is going to become as he starts nailing down technique. He’s been great for us to have and is improving every week.”
Getting adjusted to the training of a full-time college program can be both difficult and beneficial for athletes.
For most college track athletes, the year-round training is a new standard. So is a structured program in the weight room as well as nutrition.
For most of the Warriors, it’s been more beneficial. Several freshmen have already bested their personal-best times from high school.
“Some kids get better in a college program right away,” Mendes said. “ There are other kids who it takes a while to get used to the training and it takes a while to get used to the coaching and to the program. You throw strength and conditioning in there, and for some kids it’s a big adjustment. We have a great system at Merrimack how we handle the weight room, the training room and just helping these kids improve.”
Merrimack’s training goes from sun up, to sun down.
The distance runners are training outdoors all year. The team practices in full at North Andover High School on certain days, but the field athletes generally use the basketball gym early in the morning. The sprinters typically train at Cedardale Health and Fitness in Haverhill in the evenings.
This is also the biggest roster the Warriors have had since beginning the program five years ago.
“It’s a young team,” Mendes said. “We started kind of lopsided in terms of how many seniors and juniors compared to the sheer amount of freshmen and sophomores we have. Those are the growing pains of a new team.”
After the championship meets conclude, the Warriors will transition outdoors for the spring season. The training, for the most part, remains the same but there are certain advantages to being outdoors.
“Only real difference is we can actually run the times we are supposed to run in workouts,” Mendes said. “We add a lot of time when we run at Cedardale because it’s a short track with 90-degree turns.”
Mike McMahon covers Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report as well as on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN