Mitchell Black is taking it as a good sign. He can run fast even when he doesn’t feel good.

That’s what happened earlier this month when the Tufts University sophomore from Brunswick turned in the nation’s second-fastest Division III time this year for 800 meters – 1 minute, 50.89 seconds at Princeton’s Larry Ellis Invitational.

“It was kind of funny because I really didn’t know I was running that fast and I didn’t feel that good in that race,” Black said. “It was a bit of a surprise, and to run that fast and not feel good is encouraging.”

Black backed up that effort Saturday when he claimed his first New England Small College Athletic Conference outdoor championship by running 1:50.84 (still No. 2 on the national charts) to edge Bowdoin’s Jacob Ellis on a rainy day at Colby College. Ellis’ time of 1:50.99 puts him No. 3 in the national rankings.

Tufts won its second straight NESCAC outdoor championship. The Jumbos (178.9 points) received competition from Middlebury (166.5). Bates placed third, Colby fifth and Bowdoin sixth in the 11-team field.

Black said before the meet that he didn’t expect a fast time, figuring it would be a strategic battle.

Black had a surprisingly strong freshman season, considering that his first preference for a college sport was soccer. A four-sport athlete at Brunswick High (All-KVAC in soccer and basketball), he only began running seriously after being cut from the Tufts soccer team. Then he cut nearly seven seconds off his high school 800 personal best with a school-record 1:50.43 at the Open New Englands, running against Division I and II competition.

He finished his freshman year by placing seventh at the NCAA Division III outdoor championships.

The pace of improvement this year has been less striking but more consistent. He spent the fall training with the cross country team. Indoors, Black posted Division III’s fastest 800 time when he went 1:49.58 in January.

At the NCAA indoor championships, he led for the first 700 meters and held on for third in 1:52.17. He was also on Tufts’ sixth-place 4×400 relay, earning his third and fourth All-America honors.

“I think he has progressed immensely in terms of consistency and just his approach to training,” Tufts Coach Ethan Barron said. “Consistency in our sport is the precursor to a breakout performance.”

Is Black’s first sub-1:50 outdoors just around the corner?

“I really hope so, I feel it’s definitely in me,” Black said. “I ran better this year (at Princeton) than I did last year. So I’m hoping that being faster at this point in the season means being faster at the end of the season as well.”

Barron agreed Black has the ability, and now the training foundation, to make a significant time cut. Whether it happens this year might depend on variables neither athlete nor coach can control.

“Once you get to Mitchell’s level, the races are few and far between that are set up where guys like him can run those types of times,” Barron said. “You only get one or two swings at the bat and you have to hope the weather cooperates and the other runners in the race are also ready to go.”

Black is virtually assured of returning to the NCAA championships, to be held May 22-24 at Ohio Wesleyan. Tufts will compete in three more meets before then: the New England Division III Championships, the Open New Englands and the ECACs. Black will likely skip at least one meet.

“Weekends off become very important, not only to recharge physically, but equally important is to rest mentally,” Black said.

STONEHILL JUNIOR Maria Curit of Biddeford is continuing what has been a strong and diverse year.

Stonehill is ranked first in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association East Region rankings and won its own Skyhawk Invitational on Saturday. Curit won the 800 meters in a program-record time of 2:11.89, currently 16th fastest in NCAA Division II. She was also second in the long jump, matching her own school record of 18 feet, 5 inches.

During the indoor season, Curit qualified for the NCAA Division II championships in the 400, the 4×400 relay and the distance medley relay. She also won the Northeast-10 Conference long jump.

KEENE STATE senior Ryan Widzgowski of Camden is ranked ninth in Division III for 1,500 meters with his time of 3:49.59 at the Larry Ellis Invitational at Princeton. Widzgowski placed indoors at the NCAA championships in both the 800 and the mile.

ITHACA JUNIOR Emilia Scheemaker of Scarborough is ranked No. 7 in the women’s Division III triple jump (38-83/4).

SOFTBALL

SOUTHERN MAINE COMMUNITY COLLEGE won the Yankee Small College Conference title, upsetting host New Hampshire Technical Institute 1-0 in Saturday’s title game. Sophomore shortstop Anna Allard of Parsonsfield (Sacopee Valley) scored the only run. Allard led the Seawolves (15-21) with a .433 batting average.

BENTLEY FRESHMAN Katelyn Lebreux of Biddeford has helped the Falcons as a pinch-runner. Hitless in limited opportunities, Lebreux has scored seven runs for the Falcons, who finished the regular season with a 20-17 record and qualified for the Northeast-10 tournament for the first time in 27 years.

WOMEN’S LACROSSE

WHEATON (MASS.) SENIOR attack Leila Mills of Brunswick and freshman Angela Mallis of Falmouth each scored a goal and sophomore attack Allie Bush of Kennebunk had two assists Sunday as the Lyons won the New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference championship with an 8-5 victory over Babson.

Mills, a co-captain, is second on the team with 33 goals and third in points with 41. Bush has 19 goals and a team-high 31 assists. Senior defender Hayley Bright of Cumberland (North Yarmouth Academy) has started every game and is among the team leaders with 28 ground balls, to go along with five goals.

Also on the Lyons’ squad is junior midfielder Kelsie Jenquine (13 starts, four goals, three assists) of Brunswick.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:

scraig@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveCCraig