Manhattan has dominated the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men's championship for thirteen years, but that run has now come to thunderous end. The Rider University men's track and field teams blew the field away Sunday winning the championship by almost one hundred points. Deservedly so head coach Bob Hamer was named the MAAC men's outdoor coach of the year.
"It feels fantastic," said Hamer about winning the team title. "It has been a big goal for our program to get up to that championship level. Manhattan is such a great championship program that they have won year in and year out. To compete with them has been fantastic, but to get over the hump and win just shows a testament to the quality and character of our athletes. They really work hard and they really rise to the challenge."
This is seventh conference championship for the Rider Outdoor Men's Track and Field team but the first since joining the MAAC 14 years ago. Rider also won the outdoor title in the East Coast Conference in 1986, 1989, 1991 and 1992 and in the Northeast Conference in 1994 and 1995. It had been a sixteen year drought and having never won a MAAC title, it was well worth the wait.
"It is a great honor," Hamer said about winning MAAC Coach of the Year. "It is really not for me, it is for my staff. They do a tremendous job working really hard every day. I get way too much credit for what goes on in this program. The reality is they do all the grunt work. It is great to see the athletes succeed and do as well as they can. It is great to be acknowledged by my peers, but I think it is a testament to the hard work and effort that my staff puts in. Without them none of this would ever be possible."
For the Rider men on Sunday, senior Christian Gonzalez (Somerset/Franklin Twp.) won the 800m (1:50.62) and finished second in the 1500m (3:45.50), sophomore David Hightower (Easton, Pa./Easton) won the 110m hurdles (14.39) breaking the championship record and finished second in the 400m hurdles (53.69). For Gonzalez's efforts he was rewarded as the Most Outstanding Track Performer of the Championships. Both times by Gonzalez and both by Hightower are IC4A qualifiers.
"Chris is just a gamer," replied Hamer when asked to describe his senior and most outstanding performer. "Anything I need from Chris he will go out there and do it. We have been plotting it out that when we get into a championship setting and if I needed to tap him on the shoulder he would go out there and do it. That is who he is. When the lights are on he stands out. I am excited to watch him compete for the next month here for Rider."
"I am still ecstatic," Gonzalez said about winning the title. "I am happy as I can be for just winning it. It was our goal for the season from the start. Being a senior and ending it by giving Coach Hamer a MAAC Championship, that was my goal."
Sophomore Dave Brown (Ewing) won the 400m (48.65) which qualifies him for IC4A and placed third in the 400m hurdles (53.88), sophomore Daequan Kim (Bordentown) won the 100m (10.79) and the 200m (21.93) and sophomore James Burroughs (West Orange) won the 400m hurdles (52.88) and placed second in the 110m hurdles (14.41). Both of Burroughs times qualify him for IC4As next weekend.
"It is great to compete against one another every day and train together every day," Burroughs said about competing with Hightower. "We push each other to the limits."
"The whole first and second thing was great," said Hightower responding to Burroughs and himself in the hurdles. "We always have a rivalry going back and forth since last year. It is a great experience for us and for him to finally step up."
"It is unexplainable," Burroughs reaction to winning a MAAC team title. "For us to take them down our sophomore year just shows how far we have come as a team and what we can do in the future."
"It feels great to win the individual events, you get this surreal high," Hightower said. "Then the team winning overall, you can have some comradery. People think that track is an individual sport when it is a really a big team sport."
"It feels great," replied Kim when asked what it feels like to be in the winners circle in MAAC Championships. "All this week I was wondering if I was going to be fast enough or if I worked hard enough. It is great to see that I am. Being fast again is nice. When it comes to the championship I can't give you a good description. We have been talking about it since freshman year. This time we finally did it and it is just perfect." Kim was the most outstanding performer at the 2009-10 MAAC Indoor Championships.
For the Rider women on Sunday, sophomore Erin McMullin (Philadelphia, Pa./Nazareth Academy) won the 400m (55.11) and finished second in the 200m (24.74), freshman Rhea Phipps (Basking Ridge/Ridge) won the shot put (12.33m) and placed fifth in the discus (33.80m) and sophomore Mia Riley (West Caldwell, N.J./James Caldwell) won the 100m (12.04), placed fourth in the shot put (11.42m) and fifth in the 200m (25.15). All three women will get to compete in the ECAC Championships next weekend with both of McMullin's times qualifying, as well as Phipps winning the shot put and Riley's time in the 100m.
"Erin is just a fierce competitor," Hamer described when asked about his sprinter. "The way she won that 400m was just amazing. Each week she surprises herself. She really goes out there and competes every time. Mia has been there all year. She proved it with a big win in the 100m and anchoring the 4x100m. She has been a standout performer for us the whole year. Rhea is a freshman that has come such a far way. She has exceeded our expectations and has gotten better every week."
"Both events I was seeded fourth," said McMullin when asked to describe her day. "I had it in me that I wanted to go out and win. For the last hundred meters, no matter how much pain it caused me, I was just going to push it out and I outlasted her. I think we are really strong as a team and it is a great accomplishment."
Sophomore Ashley Hunter (Northampton, Pa./Northampton) finished third in the 400m hurdles (1:03.58) and fifth in the 100m hurdles (15.18), junior Kristen Perrine (Brick/Brick Memorial) finished fourth in the 800m (2:17.87) and senior Chelsea Callan (Hazlet/Raritan) placed fifth in the 1500m (4:41.43), breaking the Rider record on her last meet in MAAC competition.
"The women did a great job," said Hamer. "It might not show up on paper all the time because Saint Peter's and Manhattan are really good, but the women had a tremendous meet. We had a lot of personal bests and some ECAC qualifiers. They showed up and brought it today."
Also for the Bronc men on Sunday, sophomore Greg Wesh (Horsham, Pa./Hatboro-Horsham) finished second in the 800m (1:52.45), freshman Steven Brown (Penns Grove) placed second in the triple jump (14.46m), senior Brian Leggett (Old Chatham, N.Y./Chatham) finished second in the pole vault (4.50m), freshman Wilvenson Baptiste (Irvington) finished second in the 200m (21.95) and third in the 100m (10.79), freshman Joseph Carlin (Staten Island, N.Y./McKee) placed third in the 800m (1:54.38), senior Michael Soroko (Kinnelon) placed third in the 1500m (3:52.71), junior Ron Moore (Nashville, Tenn./John Overton) finished third in the 400m (49.52) and sophomore Jorge Merino (Old Bridge) placed third in the discus (46.32m) and fourth in the shot put (15.49m).
"They did an unbelievable job," Hamer said when asked about his sprinters. "They were the only group that didn't get a chance to compete Saturday. I think they were sitting there salivating thinking wait till you see what we can do tomorrow. Coach Dorival (assistant coach Dudley Dorival) does a great job. It was just great day all around."
Junior Adam Haun (Holland, Pa./Council Rock South) finished fourth in the high jump (1.89m), freshman George Osti (Union) finished fifth in the discus (44.28m), sophomore Perry Asare (Lindenwood) placed fifth in the triple jump (13.97m), freshman Eric Cottrell (Beachwood/Toms River HS South) finished fifth in the pole vault (4.19m), freshman Matthew Millemann (Hillsborough) placed fourth in the 400m hurdles (54.58) and fifth in the 110m hurdles (15.10), freshman Quintin Robin (Jamison, Pa./Central Bucks East) placed sixth in the pole vault (4.04m), freshman Christopher McGovern (Old Bridge/St. John Vianney) finished sixth in the discus (41.92m).
"The jumpers today, Perry and Steven, were a little banged up," Hamer said. "Steven on his last jump put it out there to go into second place. It was just a heroic effort. Perry dislocated his shoulder in one of the jumps, but kept competing and that just shows the character of those guys. That was not for them, it was for the team."
The 4x100m relay of Burroughs, Baptiste, Hightower and Kim won with a time of 41.71.
The 4x400m relay of Burroughs, Baptiste, Hightower and Kim won in a time of 3:17.25.
Also for the Bronc women on Sunday, junior Heather Giovagnoli (Royersford, Pa./Spring Ford) placed sixth in the 1500m (4:42.40), senior Jillian Rubbico (Plains, Pa./Coughlin) finished sixth in the 100m (12.54), freshman Corina Santiago (Ewing/Notre Dame) placed seventh in the discus (31.64m), sophomore Megan Elgin (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) placed seventh in the 5000m (18:56.93), sophomore Jordyn Horning (Milford, Pa./Delaware Valley) finished eighth in the 400m (58.62) and sophomore Erin Fitzgibbons(Sayreville) placed eighth in the 5000m (18:59.20).
The 4x400m relay of Riley, Horning, Hunter and McMullin placed third with a time of 3:55.02.
The 4x100m relay of Counts, McMullin, Hunter and Riley finished third in a time of 47.94
For the Rider men Saturday, senior Michael Soroko won the 3000m steeplechase (9:07.83), freshman Christopher McGovern won the javelin in an IC4A qualifying distance of 59.40m and freshman Steven Brown won the long jump (7.09m).
The 4x800m relay of freshman Joseph Carlin, junior David South (Sergeantsville/Hunterdon Central), sophomore Greg Wesh and Gonzalez won with a time of 7:47.67.
For the Rider women Saturday, freshman Rhea Phipps finished fourth in the hammer throw (42.76m), senior Chelsea Callan placed fifth in the 3000m steeplechase (11:07.14) setting a new Rider record and sophomore Nicole Tassello (Suffern, N.Y./Suffern) finished fifth in the 10,000m (39:20.39).
Also for the Rider men, sophomore Sean Donohue (Cliffwood Beach/Matawan) finished second in the 10,000m (31:36.80), freshman George Osti placed second in the hammer throw (51.18m), sophomore Richard Verrall (Philadelphia, Pa./Archbishop Ryan) finished third in the hammer throw (50.36m) and in the javelin (57.90m), sophomore Sean McCullough (Plymouth Meeting, Pa/La Salle) placed third in the 10,000m (31:49.06) and sophomore Perry Asare finished fourth in the long jump (6.84m).
Also for the Rider women, junior Kelli Kaelin (Little Egg Harbor/Pinelands Regional) placed seventh in the 10,000m (39:56.86), sophomore Jillian Shutt (Lawrenceville, Pa./Williamson) finished seventh in the 3000m steeplechase (11:31.61), freshman Corina Santiago placed seventh in the javelin (30.60m) and eighth in the hammer throw (36.06m) and sophomore Erin Fitzgibbons (Sayreville) finished eighth in the 3000m steeplechase (11:34.84).
The 4x800m relay of senior Johanna Clarke (Laurelton, N.Y./Mary Louis Academy), sophomore Lauren Findley (Hallstead, Pa./Blue Ridge), sophomore Paige McAtee (Massapequa, N.Y./Massapequa) and junior Laura Staples (Horsham, Pa./Appalachian State/Hatboro-Horsham) finished third in 9:28.22.
The teams participate May 13-15 at the IC4A/ECAC championships in Princeton.
"I think we are going to go to IC4As and ECACs with the largest contingent that we have ever taken," said Hamer. "It is more than we anticipated and I couldn't be happier."