University of Southern Maine men’s track team finished third in the 2012 New England Alliance Championship and second in Little East Conference scoring Saturday at the USM Field House in Gorham. UMass-Dartmouth won the Little East Conference 177 to USM’s 132 and took the alliance title, scoring 145 points to Westfield’s 94 and Southern Maine’s 91.

The three-time defending alliance champion Huskies were knocked off as their depth was not as strong as in years past. “It was a solid effort, and I’m proud of the way they fought, having only 25 guys tonight,” said USM Coach Scott Hutchinson.

With what they had, the Huskies turned in a solid effort getting key performances by their veteran leaders. Senior Matt Harmon (Auburn) took fifth place in the weight throw with a mark of 52′ 10″ as well as a seventh place in the shot put. Sophomore teammate John White (Westbrook) came in second in the shot with a throw of 48′ 8″.

Also in the field events, senior Cole Whitney (Topsham) and sophomore Aaron Paiton (Minot) tied for sixth, both clearing a height of 10′ 2″. The meet record was also shattered in this event with Thomas Gauger of Westfield state clearing 15′ 8″, topping last year’s record vault by over one foot.

Seniors Ben Manning (Jericho, VT), John Vallo (Beacon, NY) and Tim Even (Stoneham) displayed veteran leadership, all competing in their final Alliance Championship meet.

The mile run was the showcase for the Huskies. Manning took the event with Even and sophomore Julian Gazzelloni (Windham) finishing second and third. It looked to be Even’s race with 200 meters to go, but the kick from Manning was the determining factor. Manning also anchored the winning 4×800 team and finished third on the 1,000 meters while running in the second, slower heat.

Even and Gazzelloni’s performances in the mile left them less than half an hour to rest before the grueling 800 meter race. They still managed to pull off fifth and sixth place finishes both running under the coveted two minute mark and posting times of 1:58.71 and 1:58.76 respectively.

Vallo fought hard for a sixth-place finish in the 3,000 meters with a time of 8:45 as well as being the third runner for the victorious 4×800. Senior middle distance runner Brett Baker (Sanford) and freshman Kevin Desmond (Monmouth) earned the Huskies fifth- and sixth-place finishes respectively in the 600 meters with times of 1:25.04 and 1:25.53. A fourth-place finish in the 200 meters went to Will Wenegar (Falmouth), a freshman standout for USM.

The highlight of the night, the 4×400 meters, was a bit controversial. The last event of the night always draws full team support and is the loudest event by far. USM was in fourth place when senior Jake Moore (Bridgton) got the baton. He proceeded to pass two other runners before nearly catching the last at the finish line. In the heat of the race he dropped his baton after crossing the finish line, disqualifying the team.

The team will compete in the Division III Championships, held Feb. 18 at Springfield College in Mass.




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