Senior Mike Burgstrom has been a force for the UR men’s track and field team, earning All-American honors last week and most recently being named the Atlantic Region’s Top Field Athlete for the indoor season. This past weekend, however, when the men’s and women’s track teams traveled to Widener University – located just outside of Philadelphia, Pa. – to compete in the Danny Curran Invitational, it wasn’t just Burgstrom’s performance that stole headlines.

The ‘Jackets had five runners place in the top five in two different distance events, including a sweep of the top three spots in the 10,000.

Senior Pat Hughes got the win in the 10,000 with a time of 31:49.46 but was closely followed by fellow senior Dan Mueller, who crossed the finish line five hundredths of a second later.

“For the last few laps, Danny and I switched the lead every 400 meters, because the wind was starting to pick up,” Hughes explained. “We finished right next to each other, so even though I technically won by .05 seconds, we meant it to be a tie.”

Senior Joseph Lust rounded off the sweep with a third-place time of 32:49.83.

“To place one through three at a meet with Villanova [University] and other [Division I and II] schools is very impressive, so that’s encouraging for the rest of the season,” Hughes said.

In the 5,000, senior Mark Stevens took second for UR while sophomore Tyle Stelzig earned fifth with times of 15:08.18 and 15:26.80, respectively.

In field events, Burgstrom excelled. His distance of 47.80 meters in the hammer throw was good enough to earn him the win in the event, and he placed seventh in discus with a throw of 38.05 meters. Senior Eric Scheele and sophomore Patrick Burke earned third- and sixth-place finishes in the hammer throw with distances of 42.52 and 38.68 meters, respectively.

In the distance group, Hughes and other members of the senior class have certainly taken on a leadership role.

“In order for them to excel in the future, the other seniors and I must show [the underclassmen] that it is hard work and unswerving dedication that makes good runners, not talent and magical secrets,” Hughes said. “Many of the underclassmen are catching on, and I have high hopes for them in the upcoming years.”

UR also got strong performances from a number of women this weekend. Two relays earned top-three finishes at the invitational, and the ‘Jackets had two runners in the top four in the 400. In the 400 hurdles, two UR athletes placed in the top eight.

The 4×400 relay team won with a time of 4:05.20, while the 4×100 relay team took third with a time of 51.37 seconds. In the 400, senior Stacie Woods took third with a time of 1:01.45. Sophomore Prashanthi Chodagiri placed four fractions of a second later.

In the hurdles, junior Jamie Landry earned eighth in the 100 with a time of 17.25.

Freshman Jacqueline Cinella placed fifth in the 400 hurdles with a time of 1:11.01, while freshman Emily Gray came in at 1:18.87 – a time good enough for seventh place.

Sophomore Heather Graham took second in the 3,000 steeplechase with a time of 12:36.01, while sophomore Allie McComb grabbed third with a time of 12:49.23.

Senior Anjuli Cherukuri took third in two field events – pole vaulting and javelin – and sophomore Melissa Skevington grabbed fifth place in the triple jump with a distance of 10.71 meters. Junior Jonelle Redhead took fourth in discus and sixth in the hammer throw.

Overall, the ‘Jackets’ performance – on both the men’s and women’s side – was impressive, especially considering the caliber of their competition. UR’s next meet will be this Sunday when it hosts its annual Alumni Invitational. The following weekend, the ‘Jackets will host another tournament, the UR Invitational.

On April 27-28 and May 2-3, UR heads to the New York State Collegiate Track Conference Heptathlon/Decathlon, hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, for one of its most important competitions of the season.

In anticipation of these contests, the ‘Jackets will be working hard so as to be able to compete at the highest level.

“As far as the team as a whole goes, it’s still very early,” Hughes said. “We have a lot of hard training to get through in the next few weeks to prepare us for the championship season.”

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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