Track and Field: Amherst, Holyoke compete in Nike Outdoor Nationals in Oregon

It was an impressive trip to the Nike Nationals for the Amherst track and field team. The Hurricanes posted several strong finishes, with Logan Alfandari joined by Ella Austin, Kora Brissett, Ololara Baptiste, Ruby Austin and Moriah Luetjen as Amherst representatives.

It was an impressive trip to the Nike Nationals for the Amherst track and field team. The Hurricanes posted several strong finishes, with Logan Alfandari joined by Ella Austin, Kora Brissett, Ololara Baptiste, Ruby Austin and Moriah Luetjen as Amherst representatives. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By CONNOR PIGNATELLO

Staff Writer

Published: 06-20-2024 7:39 PM

Six Amherst track and field athletes and the Holyoke girls 4x100 squad made the trip to Eugene, Oregon for Nike Outdoor Nationals held on June 12-15.

It was the first trip to Nike Outdoor Nationals for all 10 athletes. Holyoke had never sent a team to Eugene before this season and the relay squad set up a successful GoFundMe to raise money for the trip. 

Athletes spent most of a week in Oregon. Some Amherst athletes stayed about an hour west of Eugene on the Pacific coast and others stayed about 45 minutes east of Eugene in the mountains. The events are held at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, which has hosted the past five iterations of the U.S. Olympic Trials, including this year’s trials from June 21-30.

“It’s the most amazingly designed track and the most well-orchestrated meet I’ve ever been to in my life,” Amherst track and field coach Chris Gould said. “It was just fabulous.”

Events are broken into two divisions: the Championship division, and below it, the Emerging Elite division. 

Holyoke’s Veronica Colon, Kayshaly Garcia, Kyra Lippman and Yasani Thompson placed 18th of 23 in the Championship division of the 4x100 relay with a time of 51.04 seconds.

Amherst won the Emerging Elite division of the girls sprint medley relay (4:12.23) behind Ella Austin and Kora Austin’s 200s, Ololara Baptiste’s 400 and Moriah Luetjen’s 800.

Amherst also ran three other relays. In the 4x200, Baptiste, Brissett, Ruby Austin and Luetjen finished eighth out of 19 participants in the Championship division. In the 4x100, the same four ‘Canes placed second in the Emerging Elite division with a school record time of 49.51. In the 4x400, the Austin sisters, Baptiste and Luetjen finished 16th of 20 participants in the Championship division with a time of 4:02.86, just two seconds shy of the school record they set last week.

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Luetjen followed up her state title in the 400 by finishing 19th out of 44 participants in the Championship division. She ran a time of 56.24. In the 200, which she won at Western Mass. and placed second at states, Luetjen ran a 25.43 to place her 42nd out of 48 participants in the Championship division. In all, she competed in five different events.

“She didn’t flinch when it came to doing the week,” Gould said. “She ran like a seasoned, elite athlete all week long and I think it’s great practice. I think she has the opportunity to go far.”

In the freshman 100, Brissett placed 25th (13.04) and Baptiste followed right behind her in 26th (13.07) out of 46 participants.

Logan Alfandari continued a strong outdoor throwing season with more success in the shot put and the discus. At the MIAA Div. 4 championships, he won the shot put and placed second in the discus.

In the Emerging Elite division, he placed third of 33 participants in the shot put (55-6.5) and 10th of 35 participants in the discus (161-7).

After spending the whole season throwing with familiar faces, Alfandari met throwers from Wisconsin to Texas and Indiana to California. He said meeting competitors from around the country and learning tips from them helped him set a new PR on his first day of postseason training.

“It’s probably why I’m finding so much success right now postseason,” Alfandari said. “Because I’ve got some stuff where ‘oh, he tried this or he did that.’ Let me see how that works within how I think, how I move. If nothing else, that made it worthwhile.”

Of Amherst’s six athletes at nationals, all except for Brissett (transfer to Williston-Northampton) will be back next year. Alfandari, Luetjen and Ruby Austin will be seniors and Baptiste and Ella Austin will be sophomores. 

Gould and the team are looking to make a return trip next June.