By George Tatoris
It was a long Friday, Feb. 12, for Lions track. They boarded the bus at 6 a.m., arrived in Boston at 11:30 a.m., and after a two-hour rest, took part in a massive, two-day meet hosted by Boston University: the highly-competitive Valentine Invitational.
“Some of the best athletes in the world competed (in Boston) this past weekend and our Lions mixed it up right alongside them,” head coach Justin Lindsey said.
While the College didn’t do as well overall as their Division I (D-I) opponents, the strong competition pushed many Lions to go faster, higher and farther than before.
Seniors Marissa Lerit and Carly Martz were two of those Lions.
Lerit and Martz had the longest day — their event, the women’s 5,000-meter race, was scheduled for 11:30 p.m. It was the last event of the day.
“I’m really happy with how I ran, especially given the conditions,” said Martz, who, along with Lerit, had to take a nap at the hotel to prepare for the race.
Lerit finished 39th, but her 17:53.11 finish in the 5,000-meter was her fastest by almost a minute.
“I was on cloud nine after my race,” Lerit said. One of the senior’s college goals was to break 18 minutes.
Martz took 49th place with a time of 18:35.87, 13 seconds faster than her old record.
Lerit and Martz now have the top two fastest times in the 5,000-meter in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC).
“This meet was not about place, it was about running fast and competing,” Lerit said.
The Lions did not set out to beat the pantheon of D-I runners they were up against. That goal was “unrealistic,” according to Lerit. This was their last chance to improve conference seeds.
The Lions’s goal was to “Forget about your pace per lap and the heat you are in and just go out the hardest you can,” she said.
A lot of Lions kept that goal in mind. They came back with 21 personal bests, five national performances and three all-time program top-five performances, according to coach Lindsey.
Freshman Kathleen Jaegar ran her fastest 800-meter yet in her Boston debut, finishing 56th out of 192 at 2:15.90, now the fastest 800-meter time in the NJAC.
Sophomore Danielle Celestin had a personal best time in the 200-meter, finishing 75th at 25.90 seconds.
Freshman Erin Holzbaur showed a four-second improvement on her personal best in the mile run, coming in at 5:06.43.
Lerit attributed her success to the wealth of talent in Boston that weekend.
“Racing against people that are faster than you can push you to limits that you never knew that you had in you,” Lerit said.
Senior Jon Stouber raced past his record in the 5,000-meter with a 14:51.75 finish, good enough for 27th place.
“The 5K crew all went out aggressively,” said senior Tyler Grimm, who was also in the 5,000-meter. Stouber, Grimm and junior Andrew Tedeschi were split into three different heats in the 5,000 and were able to see each other run.
The men’s 4×400 relay team beat their season record with a finish of 3:19.68, the 15th fastest time on the field and the fastest time in the NJAC. Freshman twins Noah and Nathan Osterhus, freshman Kamal Williams and sophomore Daniel Lynch were responsible for that finish.
“We needed a race where we all ran well and we finally got that,” Noah said.
Noah had his own personal record in the 800-meter, placing 28th with a finish of 1:53.34.
Freshman Jekabs Hayes beat the milestone he set last weekend at Rider University in the 3,000-meter by almost six seconds, finishing 108th at 8:44.90. In the same race, senior Scott Savage also beat his personal record, coming in 114th at 8:46.95.
On the field, junior Chris Guglielmo went higher than he ever did in the pole vault at 14’9,” the second highest in the NJAC.
A lot of Lions returned from Boston with a new milestone to beat, including Lerit, who dashed past one of her all-time college goals this weekend.
“I guess I’m going to have to set a new goal now,” Lerit said.