Maria Curit went to the indoor NCAA Division II track and field championships earlier this year to compete in what she thought was her specialty – the 400-meter dash.
She also ran a leg for her Stonehill College distance medley relay team, and in the process realized maybe the 400 wasn’t her best event after all.
“I ran the 800 and ended up running a 2:12, I believe, and in the 400 I ended up not even making the finals,” said Curit, a former Biddeford High standout.
The evidence was clear. Curit could continue to be a strong 400 runner, or she could go up to the 800 and have a chance to be among the best in the country.
“I wanted to go back to nationals and when I did go back, I wanted it to be in an event that I was able to make the final,” Curit said.
Despite only running the 800 three times this outdoor season, Curit posted the nation’s seventh-fastest Division II time when she finished second at the Open New Englands on May 3 in a school-record time of 2 minutes, 8.72 seconds.
Division II has both automatic and provisional qualifying standards. By running faster than 2:09, Curit became the first Stonehill female track and field athlete to make an automatic qualifying standard.
Before this season, Curit had only run an open 800 twice as a collegian, and “maybe once, I can’t really remember” while competing for Biddeford.
Her first two attempts this season were a pair of winning efforts in the high 2:11s, confirming her DMR time at the indoor nationals wasn’t a fluke.
“Those races, I was ahead the whole time,” Curit said. “Then at New Englands I came in second and had other people to bring me through, and I was really trying to win the race and that helped a lot.”
This weekend, Curit is sure to find plenty of running partners. She will race in a prelim on Friday; the final is on Saturday. The Division II championships are Thursday through Saturday at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan.
While still a novice at the 800, Curit said her experience at the indoor championships (she finished 14th in the 400 and Stonehill was ninth in the DMR) will be helpful.
“I already feel a lot more at ease about going into these nationals,” Curit said. “It’s definitely different when you’ve already experienced something because you know what to expect.”
Three Division II runners have turned in sub-2:07 times. No. 1 ranked Shawnee Carnett of Concord (West Virginia) University, the 2014 indoor champ, has run a 2:06.19 this season.
“I’m going to compete the best that I can and I think good things will happen,” Curit said.
Regardless of this weekend’s results, the 2014 outdoor season has had plenty of highlights for Curit. Stonehill backed up its Northeast-10 indoor championship by winning the outdoor title. Curit was fifth in the 200 and third in the 400, setting school records in each.
She also posted provisional NCAA qualifying marks in the 400 (55.72) and long jump (school record 18-91/4) but did not make the final cut for those events. She earned All-East Region honors from the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in the 800, 400 and long jump.
“This year was a great year for the women’s track team,” Curit said.
TRACK AND FIELD
Several athletes with local connections will compete at the NCAA Division III championships Thursday through Saturday at Ohio Wesleyan in Delaware, Ohio.
The top 20 men, top 22 women and top 16 relay teams that had declared for an event were selected Sunday.
Heading the list is University of Southern Maine jumper Jamie Ruginski of Buxton (Bonny Eagle), an All-America contender (top eight) in two events. Ruginski is seeded third in the triple jump with a best of 48-51/4, and his school-record long jump of 23-4 1/4 is ranked fifth nationally.
USM sophomore Jeremy Collins of Standish (Bonny Eagle) is ranked 10th in the 400-meter hurdles with a school-record 52.73.
USM’s all-Mainer 4×400 relay team of Ruginski, Collins, sophomore Daniel Webb of Acton (Sanford) and junior Kevin Desmond of Monmouth (Monmouth Academy) is ranked 13th. The quartet’s top time of 3:14.68 is another USM record.
Tufts University sophomore Mitchell Black of Brunswick is ranked third in the 800 (1:50.12), where he figures to get a rematch with NESCAC rival and top-ranked Bowdoin sophomore Jacob Ellis of Brattleboro, Vermont (1:49.66).
Keene State senior Ryan Widzgowski of Camden is ranked 11th in the 1,500 (3:49.59). Widzgowski placed sixth in the 800 and second in the mile at the indoor championship.
Indoor mile champion Coby Horowitz, a Bowdoin senior from Stowe, Massachusetts, is not on the entry list. He told Runner’s World in March that he expected to attend graduation rather than compete at outdoor nationals. His top 1,500-meter time – set while running the mile at the Penn Relays – would have ranked him third.
Brandeis senior Amelia Lundkvist of South Portland (Cheverus) is seeded 11th in the 1,500 (4:34.07).
Southern Maine junior Peyton Dostie of Standish (Bonny Eagle) is the No. 8 seed in the 400 hurdles (1:01.26). Dostie is just the eighth USM woman to compete at the outdoor championship in an individual event.
Ithaca junior Emilia Scheemaker of Scarborough is the 13th seed in the triple jump (38-101/4) and is making her fourth NCAA championships appearance (two indoors, two outdoors).
Assumption College freshman Gwendelyn Sawyer of North Yarmouth (Greely) was named the Northeast-10 Field Athlete Rookie of the Year after winning the conference title. She also earned All-Region honors with her throw of 38-10 1/4 at the Open New Englands, placing second among Division II throwers and 13th overall.
University of New Haven junior first baseman Zach Collett of Westbrook was named to both the Daktronics All-East Region and All-Northeast-10 first teams. Collett started all 36 games for the Chargers, hitting .362 with a .441 on-base percentage. He hit 11 doubles and four home runs and drove in a team-high 34 runs.
New Haven junior left-hander Joey Royer, also of Westbrook (Cheverus), was picked for the Northeast-10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll. In 10 appearances (six starts), Royer posted a 3-1 record with a 2.25 ERA, fanning 35 in 48 innings, including seven shutout innings in his final start, a 1-0 win against Le Moyne in the conference quarterfinals. New Haven lost in the semifinal.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: