By Greg Dudek
Performances like the one the Bridgewater State University men’s and women’s outdoor track and field teams had on Sunday continue to help the Bears shine in the New England region.
The men’s team helped garner more attention regionally as they captured the New England Alliance title at the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC)/New England Alliance Championships.
“It was huge for the team to win that title,” said Bridgewater State head coach Thomas Smith. “It is an amazing recruiting tool to talk about having the best Division III state school in New England. This championship was our team focus all year and it certainly wasn’t easy, but the assistant coaches and I could not be more proud of the team.”
The men also finished second in the MASCAC behind Westfield State University while the women’s team placed third overall in the MASCAC and fifth in the New England Alliance.
Senior jumper and captain Joshua Danner-Hicks and junior sprinter Brian Espinosa paced the Bears as they have all season with championship performances.
Danner-Hicks broke his own school record in the triple jump with a leap of 48 feet to earn Alliance and MASCAC individual titles.
Espinosa was not to be outdone though, as he placed first in the 100 and 200-meter dashes for Alliance and MASCAC individual titles. Espinosa’s 200-meter performance broke the former school record set back in 1993.
“Espinosa and Hicks would be team MVPs on any Division III team in the country,” Smith said. “Both of them are team first guys and that makes them so special. It is so rare to see such gifted athletes who put team accomplishments over their own ambition.”
Both teammates ended up receiving MASCAC Athletes of the Week honors and for Danner-Hicks it was the third consecutive week being named Field Athlete of the Week.
“The awards are never about myself,” Danner-Hicks said. “They help me realize that there are so many people trying to get better and better at this sport and the fact that I can be recognized for my performances is just a true blessing.”
Even though the Lady Bears were not able to bring home a championship, they still had quality performances from many on the team. And with a mix of seniors competing for their last shot at a championship and freshmen trying to get their first taste at an outdoor title, Smith will take the third place finish.
Smith said it was a good day for the women and their performances forecast a bright future ahead of them.
Sophomore Danielle Poto led the way for the Lady Bears with a pair of MASAC individual titles in the 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter runs.
Her showing was somewhat of a coming out party for Poto, as she is demonstrating why she is becoming one of the top runners in the MASCAC.
“Knowing I am a MASCAC champion in both the 1500 and five-K is unreal,” Poto said. “If anything such an honor is merely encouragement for me to continue to strive and improve even more. Running is a passion in which I devote a huge part of my life. And for my hard work and perseverance to be recognized in such a way is truly the honor in itself.”
Sophomore Ariele Krevosky joined Poto with an individual MASCAC title in triple jump while senior Jacey Peers and freshman Samantha Richner each earned conference individual titles as well.
Even with the championship performance from the Bears and strong performances from the Lady Bears, the MASCAC/New England Alliance Championships is just the start of the postseason.
With a majority of the team moving on to the next stage of the postseason series, Bridgewater State will try to expand their regional influence into a national one.
The Bears have the ability to do so, especially from Danner-Hicks and Espinosa who are looking to get back to All-American status.
“This sport is one of the best things to ever happen to me and even though I only have a few weeks left of it, it would be great to end my career with a bang,” Danner-Hicks said.
Both teams will continue the postseason journey when they compete next at the New England Div. III Championships on May 2-3.
Greg Dudek is The Comment’s Editor-In-Chief. Follow him on Twitter at gdudek10 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.