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With head coach Jacky Mendes coming off her first year at the helm that saw the program have its best season in its five-year history, along with the return of 10 different all-region performers in the indoor and outdoor seasons combined last year, the 2015-16 seasons show great promise as the Merrimack College men’s and women’s track and field teams begin their sixth season at the UMass Boston Indoor Opener Invitational on Saturday.

Links: Webcast | Season Preview Video

Short Sprints (60m, 200m)
Senior captain Taylor Jean-Gilles (Woburn, Mass.) returns for his final campaign after earning All-East Region honors in the 60m and 200m dash last indoor season, the second consecutive year he has earned All-Region Honors. Sophomores Luis Cintron (Flanders, N.Y.) and Zach Mello(Rochester, Mass.) will figure into the mix, while multiple freshmen have a chance to contribute to this group.

On the women’s side, junior captain and standout Carly Muscaro (Ashland, Mass.) highlights the group after a stellar sophomore season, collecting All-East Region honors in the 100m and 200m. She also highlights an All-East Region 4x400m relay team that finished just one spot shy of qualifying for nationals last year. Junior Olivia Downey (Melrose, Mass.) and sophomore Kiana Weary (Brockton, Mass.) ran on that relay team last year, but senior captain Bethany Labossier (Derry, N.H.) and three different freshmen have entered the fray of joining the All-American hopeful team.

Long Sprints (400m, 500m, 800m)
Muscaro also highlights the long sprints unit after the most impressive single-season campaign in the program’s young history. The reigning Northeast-10 Conference and USTFCCCA Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year placed second in the finals of the 400m dash at both the NCAA Division II Indoor and Outdoor Championships last season. She was also the conference champion in the 400m at the NE-10 Championships en route to earning all-region and First Team All-American status, and is looking to qualify for the Olympic Trials this year.

Seniors Meaghan Kelley (Watertown, Mass.) and Taylor Anderson (Peabody, Mass.) join Muscaro on the women’s side, while the men will look for a quality season sophomore Zachary Bell (Albany, N.Y.), while multiple freshman including Jacob Robinson (Riverhead, N.Y.) will look to contribute as well.

Mid-Distance (800m, 1000m, 1600m)
Senior captains Bethany Labossier (Derry, N.H.) and Sarah May (Peabody, Mass.) along with junior Kathleen Carney (Glastonbury, Conn.) will represent the women’s side in mid-distance events, while sophomores  Christian Gentile (Melrose, Mass.) and Connor Murphy (Paxton, Mass.) will be joined by freshman Trevor Ciempa (Adams, Mass.) on the men’s side.

Long Distance (3000m, 5000m)
Cross country captains and senior leaders Kristin Schmidt (Athens, N.Y.) and Kerry Phelan (Peabody, Mass.), – who was an all-region last outdoor season in the 5000m – will lead the women on the long distance circuit and figure to be joined by a multiple freshman.

Senior captain Evan Vadenais (Millville, Mass.), coming off a great fall with the cross country team, will be joined by junior Phil Harris (Plymouth, Mass.) and sophomoreKeith Steinbrecher (Wading River, N.Y.) in leading the men’s long distance group.

Hurdles (60m)
Juniors John Braga (North Reading, Mass.) and classmate John Spencer (North Haven, Conn.), who was an all-region performer during the 2013-14 outdoor season in the 100m hurdles, highlight the male hurdlers, while on the women’s side, Downey, who earned All-East region honors in the 400m Hurdles last outdoor season, is joined by junior Sarah Barnett (Bridgewater, Mass.) and freshman Tori Daigle (Dayton, Maine) to form a strong trio in the hurdles circuit.

Jumps (HJ, TJ, LJ, PV)
The men’s jumpers are highlighted by Braga, who is coming off a fantastic sophomore season that saw him earn all-region honors in the high jump, long jump and pole vault last year. Senior Denzel Livingston (Billerica, Mass.) will look to return to his sophomore all-region-earning form after missing his junior season, while sophomore Kenny Clarke (Oalkand, N.J.) looks to build off a solid freshman season.

The women will see the return of sophomore Lauren MacGregor (Salem, N.H.), an indoor and outdoor all-region honoree in the triple jump who will also contend in the long jump. MacGregor was a NCAA Provisional Qualifier in the triple jump last year and is looking to make nationals this season. She, Downey, Barnett and senior Lauren Witzgall (North Reading, Mass.) will combine with multiple rookies including Daigle in most jump events.

Senior captain Adam Ochab (Billerica, Mass.) has been the team’s top performer in the shot put each of the last three seasons and will look to lead the team yet again this winter and spring. Sophomore Matt Mudgett (Lancaster, Mass.) will factor in, as well, while Barnett highlights the women’s side after placing first in the shot put event of the heptathlon at the NE-10 Championships last indoor season.

Barnett also highlights the pentathlon group after earning all-region honors in the event last indoor season. The junior was a NCAA Provisional Qualifier in the event last year and will look to qualify for nationals this season. Downey and Braga round out an impressive trio in the five-event contest consists of the 60m hurdles, the high jump, the shot put, the long jump, and the 800m race.

Braga, an all-region performer in both the heptathlon (indoor) and decathlon (outdoor) last year, will be the team’s leader in the heptathlon, a seven-event performance that includes the 60m dash, the long jump, the shot put, the high jump, the 60m hurdles, the pole vault, and the 1,000m race. Braga was another NCAA Provisional Qualifier for the Warriors in this event, and his striving to make nationals this season.

Barnett and Downey look to dominate this event from the women’s side as both were All-East Region honorees in the heptathlon last outdoor season.

The Schedule
Merrimack will also compete in the Jay Carisella Invitational in Boston on Dec. 12, and then compete in five events in January including the Harvard Multi-Meet and meets at Tufts, Bowdoin, Boston University and MIT. In February, the Warriors return to Boston University for the Scarlet and White Invitational, and are back the following week for the David Hemery Valentine Invitational. They then compete at MIT, followed by the NE-10 Indoor Conference Championships, and close out the month at the New England Championships at Boston University.

Merrimack’s outdoor circuit starts with a trip to Bridgewater State in March before competing at Tufts, American International, Moravian College, Stonehill and the famous Penn Relays in the month of April. Finally, the NE-10 Outdoor Championships will be hosted by American International on May 6-7 before New England’s the following Thursday and Friday (May 12-13).

Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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