Virdi’s Record Jump Highlights Women’s Track New England DIII Title

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Junior Cimran Virdi (Walnut Creek, Calif.) set a new NCAA Division III record in the pole vault with a leap of 14 feet, helping the MIT women’s track and field team win the 2015 New England Division III championship this weekend. The Engineers finished with 180 points, with Williams College taking second with 89 points. MIT claimed nine individual victories, as well as at least two of the eight places in seven events, and four in the 10K.

Sophomore Maryann Gong (Livermore, Calif.) was the only Engineer with two victories, taking individual titles in both the 1500 and the 5K. Having the first good weather day this spring, Gong took advantage of the 60 degree, sunny day with little wind and took the lead right at the gun. Going out a little too fast at the 200 (34), she backed off a bit to hit quarter splits in 70, 2:21 and 3:33. The first 200 had it’s effect as she slowed a little to a 55 second final 300 for a 4:28.43 wire to wire victory. She is now second on the NCAA 1500 list. She also raced in the 5K, and with the pace pretty slow through 1600 splits of 5:46 and 5:53, Gong dropped the hammer with 800 to go to win going away in 17:36.40.

The performance of the meet was far and away owned by Virdi. The two-time indoor national champion put an exclamation mark on the record books, not only setting the MIT, facility and meet records, but also taking the NCAA Division III record with her vault of 14′. The junior, who came in at 3.77 meters, missed once at 3.97, 4.17 and 4.27. On her final attempt at 4.32 meters, despite the miss, she had what it took to make the vault, indicating she has not finished her assault on her competition or the records books.

The women set three more varsity records, all in the field events, and all improvements on their own records. Senior Tilly Taylor (South Deerfield, Mass.) won the Javelin in convincing fashion, throwing 151-9 1/4 on her first throw in the finals to move to number five on the NCAA list. Senior Ashley Wheeler (Milford, N.H.) took the Hammer Throw with a throw of 175-9 1/4, having four throws over 50 meters. Wheeler is now eighth on the NCAA ranking. Senior Michelle Johnson (Glendora, Calif.) added to her record with a second place in the Triple Jump at 38-6 3/4, one centimeter out of first place. The mark put her 13th on the NCAA list. Johnson also placed eighth in the Long Jump.

Junior Isabella Stuopis (Amherst, N.H.) added to the field event victories with a PR in the Shot Put of 43-9 3/4. The junior claimed the victory and personal best on her final throw, showing the competitor she is. Completing the sweep of victories in the throwing events, sophomore Jackie Vahey (Winchester, Mass.) took the Discus Throw by one centimeter, throwing 136-7 3/4 on her second throw in finals. Vahey also placed sixth in the Hammer.

The Engineers earned two more victories on the track. Freshman Hannah Chen (Los Gatos, Calif.) ran a nearly perfect race in the 400IH, only stuttering the final hurdle as she accelerated coming off the ninth hurdle, breaking her rhythm, but maintaining the victory with a personal best 61.45 for third on the NCAA list and a new MIT freshman record. Chen also placed fifth in the 100HH and anchored both the 4×100 (senior Veronica Szklarzewski (Chicago, Ill.), freshman Nneoma Okonkwo (Lagos, Nigeria), sophomore Kendra Knittel (Tuscon, Ariz.)) and 4×400 (freshman Annie Dai (Ottawa, Ontario), Knittel, senior Kayla Harris (Baton Rouge, La.)) relays to second and third place finishes respectively. On the first night, perfect temperatures set the stage for senior Elaine McVay (San Ramon, Calif.) to not only win the 10K, but run an amazing 36:01.36 to move to 11th on the NCAA list.

Knittel had a fantastic day, running the 100, 200 and both the 4×100 and 4×400 relays. Knittel had the fastest time in the 100 trials, running 12.40 after not being seeded to make the final. In the final she ran a 12.36 to place third. In the 200 she ran a best of 25.36 for fourth place.

Szklarzewski took sixth in the 100 in 12.49, a seventh in the Long Jump at 17-4 1/4 as well as running an excellent leadoff leg in the 4×100.

Freshman Mary Eccles (Wahaiwa, Hawaii) completed an excellent freshman year by scoring in the 10K and 5K on successive days, setting personal bests in both. In the 10K, the freshman was patient with the slow early pace of her group, hitting 1600 splits of 6:03, 6:06, 6:07 and 6:03, before taking the initiative and running 88-89 second pace the remainder of the way to finish fourth in 37:32.10. The next day in the 5K, Eccles handled the faster pace to PR in 17:59.99 and place fifth.




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