Written by Joseph Barrett
- ECGulls.com Contributor
Where 2018 was one of patience and progress, 2019 is one of promise and passion for the Endicott women's track and field team.
The Gulls, who began their first varsity season a calendar year ago, look poised to create a culture of consistency and innovation this year after gaining valuable experience in 2018.
A season ago, the Blue and Green were pleased to take part in several meets against recognized talent across the region. However, it took some expected time for the team to develop as a program.
In the Snowflake Classic, the Gulls found themselves in last place in their debut performance. Two weeks later, the group earned a 12th place finish and in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Championship meet, it was a fourth place finish with six total participants.
Meanwhile, to begin 2019, the team competed in the Snowflake Classic once again, but this time, two Gulls found themselves recording regional qualifying performances.
Sophomore Emma Farrington (Essex Junction, Vt.) qualified for regionals due to her performance in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. The Vermont native shined with a then-school record time of 12:13.76 in her respective event.
Upperclassman Jenna Raffael (North Reading, Mass.) also qualified in the 100-meter hurdles, posting a stellar time of 16.35 seconds, and a new school record as well.
Raffael is always motivated to perform at the peak of her ability, but the junior adds that being an up-and-coming team in the league adds to the team's mindset.
"Since this is a new program, we are viewed as an underdog to other teams. This motivates us even more because as a new team we want to show what we are capable of come meet day," said Raffael.
A short week later came the Regis Spring Classic, where the Gulls established themselves as a true threat among their competition. The program made history with their first-ever first place finish as a team, winning the meet and in the process squeezing past rival Gordon with 120 total points.
Head coach Spencer Lange applauds the team's eagerness to prove themselves on a brighter stage. With a year of experience behind them, the comfort level is apparent in his student-athletes both on and off the track.
"Everyone knows they have a role on this team and that allows us to maximize our team output in practice, the classroom, and on the track. Last year was a bit of a learning experience for everyone so the confidence going into this year was exciting to see," said Lange.
Among the numerous standout performances for the Gulls was sophomore Sabrina Moul (North Attleboro, Mass.). The former North Attleboro Red Rocketeer finished ninth overall in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:24.32.
Moul was clear to acknowledge the cooperative nature of the team and credits her individual success to hard-earned team preparation.
"Overall, the team has a super positive mindset. Everyone on the team gets along great, and Coach Lange is a super great coach who has really been able to bring us all together," said Moul.
The success in season number two is not only existent but was expected by the group heading in. Moul and company have relished their leadership roles and are thrilled to be able to pass their knowledge to the newcomers.
"Those of us who were on the team last year are now familiar with how everything goes and for that reason are able to provide the new members with really great leadership," said Moul. "I can only imagine the potential of this team in a few years when we have all the classes filled up."
All of Moul's collegiate experience so far has been in a blue uniform. However, for Raffael, her experience as a Gull has been different from her freshman season at Stonehill College.
"The workouts and lifts we have are similar to what I've had in the past, and my teammates, as well as the coaching staff, were very helpful with helping me learn any new skills," said Raffael.
Raffael's arrival in Beverly has been a pleasant surprise. Already with a school record and a CCC weekly award to her name, the transfer student appears to be fitting in comfortably in her new home.
In their debut season, the team had a much smaller sample size to work with. The team is now comprised of 36 student-athletes, as opposed to the 27 student-athletes in 2018.
Despite the new additions and variation of events, the team continues to find new ways to motivate one another and prepare in proper fashion.
"We are a really close team despite having a large roster. Although everyone does different events we still warm up and do running workouts together," said Raffael. "We also have team bonding events to stay connected throughout the season outside of practices and meets.
The team's weekly schedule consists of various amounts of sprint, acceleration, and technique work. The school's athletic performance center in the Post Center is also a common sight, as the group lifts on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Gulls were also recognized on April 8 sweeping the CCC weekly awards, with Raffael, Nicole D'Angelo (Readfield, Maine), Gabrielle Morton (Peabody, Mass.), and Giana Nekitopoulos (West Springfield, Mass.), Jamie Budge (Old Tappan, N.J.), and Danielle Boucher (Hampton, N.H.) among the recipients.
Having multiple student-athletes be honored in a seven-day span is not just a rarity, but serves as a reminder to the rest of the league of the versatile threats the team can offer.
So much so, Endicott saw Farrington, D'Angelo, Morton, Julianne Sullivan (Wrentham, Mass.), Olivia Folkes (Amston, Conn.) and Amanda Recupero (Ipswich, Mass.) all earn weekly awards this past Monday too.
"Sweeping the CCC awards was so exciting. Having the depth that we do in a majority of events is great because each meet more girls are qualifying for the finals in events, which puts them a position where they are capable of scoring for the team," said Raffael.
Lange has been a vital part of Endicott athletics for six years. From starting as an assistant coach to being named the cross country head coach in 2015, he's fully aware of the mid-season obstacles and adjustments needed in order to be a successful collegiate program.
"Now that this young team has another class, it was another growth opportunity for the returners to be leaders. Rather than taking time to figure out our identity, we were able to get to work a little quicker and focus on more structured training," said Lange.
Lange's experience as a runner has also created an opening for knowledge to be distributed to his student-athletes, something in which his student-athletes have surely appreciated.
"Coach Lange has truly done the unimaginable. He has managed to literally create a program from the ground up, and take 40 girls and turn them into a competitive force to be reckoned with in the CCC," said Moul.
If the year-to-year improvement can be as consistent as the jump from last season to this, the program should find themselves atop the CCC in short time and continue to develop as not just a team, but a family.