WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- Eastern Connecticut State University will be chasing the perenniel champions at the 20th Annual New England Alliance/Little East Conference Men's and Women's Indoor Track & Field Championships Saturday at the Costello Sports Complex on the campus of the University of Southern Maine.
But they'll have plenty of company in the quest to upend defending champion and host University of Southern Maine.
The Eastern men and women were both last a year ago in the Alliance scoring and each was sixth in a seven-team Little East Conference field. Host Southern Maine is the defending champion in both the men's and women's competition, the USM women rolling to their 16th straight Alliance title and the Husky men chalking up their eighth overall a year ago.
The top eight finishers in Alliance scoring earn points, as do the top six in Little East scoring. The top eight finishers in individual events and top three relays in the Alliance are accorded All-Alliance recognition, as are the first three individuals and top two relays in Little East competition.
A total of 20 Eastern women and 15 men qualified for individual competition, with each institution's relays qualifying automatically.
For the women, senior Lauren Polansky (Milford), junior Amanda Terenzi (Coventry, RI), and sophomores Samantha McKoskey (Deep River) and Brittany Kriley (Fair Lawn, NJ) all qualified for the meet in two individual events. For the men, sophomore Chidebe Ndibe (West Hartford) will compete in three events, with seniors Jason Bindner (Milford), Chris Armstrong (Bolton) and John Boisette (East Hartford) earning spots in two individual events.
Seeded among the Top Ten and best bets for All-Alliance and/or All-LEC recognition for the men are Ndibe, Boisette, Bindner, senior Lawrence McGill (New Haven), juniors Cooper Goslin (South Windsor) and Nick Afragola (Killingworth), and sophomore Matt Pinney (Mansfield).
Top Ten seeds for the women are seniors Mariah McPhee (Bristol) and Lauren Polansky (Milford), juniors Ariel Smith (Stratford) and Kassandrah Banks (Wethersfield), and sophomores Haley Knox (Bristol) and Brianna Starkey (Columbia).
Afragola, Ndibe and senior Lawrence McGill (New Haven) are the men's top seeds, at No. 5 in the 200, triple jump, and 400, respectively. Ndibe, sixth in the Alliance in the triple jump last year, is also sixth in the long jump and ninth in the high jump. Boisette is also No. 8 in the 55.
For the women, despite nursing a recent ankle injury, McKosky has an inside track for all-conference honors as the No. 2 seed in the 5,000 and No. 4 seed in the 3,000, where four of the top 14 seeds are from Eastern. Knox, who set the program record in the 1,000 this year, is seeded sixth in that event. Smith, All-Alliance and All-LEC in the 3,000 a year ago, is seventh in the 3,000 this year. McPhee is eighth in the mile and Polansky eighth in the weight.