The increase was infinitesimal, a mere 1 centimeter, but that small change made all the difference to the Yellowjacket sophomore high jumper Will McGunigal this past weekend, as both the men’s and women’s track and field teams competed in the Rochester Institute of Technology Invitational on Saturday.

With a height of 1.88 meters, 0.01 meters better than his jump height last year at the same invitational, McGunigal took first place in the high jump against a field that featured a slew of talented regional rivals, which included SUNY Geneseo and Ithaca College.

‘ ‘Personally, RIT’s indoor facility is one of my favorites to jump at, so I was glad to compete there this weekend,’ McGunigal said. ‘I’m looking forward to having the conference championship meet there in late February.’

Last year, with a height of 1.88, McGunigal tied for second with four other jumpers – 5 centimeters short of the first-place finisher.

This time, the sophomore’s height was just 5 centimeters shy of qualifying for the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships (ECAC).

No men qualified for ECACs, although a couple came close. Sophomore Greg Hartnett took third place in the 800 meter, just one second away from a qualifying time, while sophomore Andrew Fleischer’s time of 2:39.81 in the 1000 meter was a mere three seconds from earning him a spot in the regional championship.

‘When you don’t have a meet for a while, you want to come back and achieve some of your best marks right away,’ McGunigal said. ‘So it can be frustrating trying to get into top performance shape after a lay-off, but this meet definitely served as a good building block for the rest of the indoor season.’

The women’s performance on Saturday was also encouraging. Junior Yaneve Fonge qualified for ECACs in two field events, winning the shotput with a throw of 12.28 meters and placing second in the weight throw with a distance of 14.41 meters.

‘What I was most pleased with was the depth and balance exhibited by our team,’ Director of Track and Field Sam Albert said. ‘We competed well in the running events, jumps and throws, which should certainly bode well for our team when we enter some of the team scoring meets later in the season.’

The other qualifying time for the women came from junior Jacqueline Cinella, who secured a bid to the ECAC tournament after running (and winning) her first 800-meter race.

‘This was actually the first time Jacqueline had raced at the 800-meter distance after moving up from the 400 and 500 meter and we are looking forward to great things from her as the season continues,’ Albert explained.

Other women notched solid finishes as well – sophomore Kenisha Smith finished third in the 55-meter dash and second in the 200 meter, while senior Shanthi Chodagiri won the 500 meter and helped the 4×400-meter relay team, which also included Cinella, Smith and junior Casey Green, take first place.

‘We saw this meet as a great opportunity to shake off some rust and test ourselves against some great competition in an early-season setting,’Albert said. ‘I consider the weekend a success overall.’

Both teams will head to the St. Lawrence University Invitational, the first team-scoring meet of the season. From there, the indoor season continues up until March, when the Yellowjackets have the opportunity to compete in both the ECAC and NCAA Championships.

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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