With several strong performances, including those of graduate students Katie Matthews and Zachary Ray, the Boston University track and field team had an impressive showing to begin its season Thursday at a multi-team meet at the BU Track and Tennis Center.
Matthews, who was named an All-American in the 5000m in 2011, competed in the 3000m for the Terriers and won the race with a time of 9:14.71.
Her time is the top time in the nation so far this season, nearly four seconds ahead of Cornell’s Rachel Soma, who ran a 9:18.17 earlier this season.
During the race, Matthews said she was focused on trying to run as fast as possible.
“I ran a 9:07 a couple weeks ago [at an intrasquad meet], so I wanted to run faster than that. But there was really nobody around me, so that made it more difficult,” Matthews said. “I was thinking that I wasn’t running fast enough, because I was supposed to be at a little bit of a quicker pace.”
Distance coach and assistant director of track and field, Bruce Lehane, said he was plenty impressed by Matthews.
“Katie ran very well. Of course, the only person disappointed in that is probably Katie,” Lehane said with a laugh.
Lehane said while Thursday evening’s performance was solid, she needed to continue improving.
“She’s clearly a national-class runner,” Lehane said. “So that’s the challenge. You’ve got to walk this fine line. You don’t want to use up her best energies too early, because the competition’s going to get way harder down the road. So she needs to be ready for that.”
Lehane didn’t doubt Matthews’s ability to stay focused, though.
“You really don’t need to motivate her at all,” Lehane said.
Ray, a transfer student from the University of Maryland, also had a big day for BU in his first competition in a Terrier uniform. He placed first in the 60m hurdles with a time of 8.09 seconds, and won the long jump with a mark of 7.16m. Additionally, he combined with juniors Stephen Vitale and Brian Leonard and senior RJ Page to win the men’s 4x400m relay (3:20.09).
Track and field Director Robyne Johnson had nothing but good things to say about Ray following his strong showing.
“He has improved on some things,” Johnson said. “He is a real, true competitor, and he’s very talented, so I expect to see some very good performances from him this year.”
Ray was not the only Terrier hurdler to have a good day. Vitale placed second in the event, with a time of 8.52 seconds, while senior Samuel Arsenault finished fourth with a time of 8.83 seconds.
On the women’s side, senior Nikko Brady (8.77 seconds), freshman Sophie Jacsurak (8.92), and senior Julia Mirochnick (9.15) placed first, second and third, respectively.
Another event the Terriers dominated was the men’s 3000m. Senior Robert Gibson posted the top time in America East so far this season, winning the race with a time of 8:19.49. Sophomore Aaron Somoroff placed third, finishing in 8:26.75. He was followed by fourth-place finisher freshman Kevin Thomas, who had a time of 8:27.85 in his collegiate track debut.
Lehane had particular praise for Somoroff’s performance, which he said was a personal best.
“That was a gigantic improvement,” Lehane said. “Last year he struggled through an up-and-down year due to injuries and things like that, and worked hard all summer, and got hurt again — couldn’t run cross country. But to see him do that today, that’s pretty cool.”
The Terriers also fared well in the men’s high jump, with junior Connor Sullivan (1.97m) and Arsenault (1.92m) claiming the top two spots.
Other individual victories included Page in the 60m dash (6.95 seconds) and freshman Reuben Horace, who excelled in his collegiate debut with an America East season-best of 18.33m in the weight throw.
“[Horace is] doing really well,” Johnson said. “He’s a strong competitor, and he was ranked very high coming in nationally in high school. He wants to be better, and he’s working very hard.”
Johnson said the solid performance by her team will help it moving forward, starting with the Terrier Invitational this weekend.
“It does well for [the team’s] confidence,” Johnson said. “We’ve been training since the summer, so coming off the whole summer, the whole fall, and now seeing the fruits of your labor, it looks good for them, and they feel good about it. They’re showing that all that hard work is paying off.”