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Indoor Track: Opener Saturday at UMB Invite

        Under Manizza, men and women offer promise in 20012/13

By Brendan Driscoll/Sports Information Staffgingras Zoom72_2869.jpg

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- Following a month of training, the Eastern Connecticut State University men's and women's indoor track and field season officially begins Saturday, Dec. 1 at the University of Massachusetts Boston Invitational at Roxbury Community College's Reggie Lewis Athletic Center in Boston.

At right: Cora Gingras

Head coach Kathy Manizza has returned to Eastern after spending the past 13 years at the University of Hartford and is coming off her first season as head men's and women's cross country coach. Jason Edwards, a former All-American Eastern track and field athlete, will join Manizza on the coaching staff, along with Michael Lunt and Brien Woodaman. Lunt brings 20 years of high school track and field and cross country coaching experience. Woodaman was a four-year letterwinner under Manizza at Hartford who specialized in the hammer, weight and shot.

The addition of Edwards to the coaching staff will be a tremendous benefit to the team since he was a four-time All-American in the long jump at Eastern in the late 1990s and early 2000s. (He still holds the conference and alliance  records for the long jump both indoor and outdoor and the conference indoor record at 200 meters).

Edwards had several reasons to return to Eastern but one of the most important reasons was to work with Manizza, his former coach for two years at Eastern who he credits with much of his improvement in the long jump.  Edwards is excited about his return to Eastern because of  the progress of the University, including the addition of the outdoor track at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex seven years ago. He also had a good feeling about returning to his alma mater after meeting with new Athletic Director Dr. Jeff Konin, who is very supportive of him and the entire track and field program.

This year, Manizza hopes that the teams can move up in the Little East standings. She also hopes that a few athletes will be able to qualify for nationals at the end of the season. It won't be easy to accomplish these goals since the indoor season is tough to train for during the winter months of Connecticut (Eastern does not yet have a field house or indoor track facility). They program does have the outdoor track, but when there is snow on the ground the team will have to be creative to practice.

hewett 72_1233.jpgWith the addition of a handful of newcomers, Manizza sees improvement on the horizon, and believes, along with Edwards that with a positive attitude the team can accomplish anything. The coaches really want to make sure that the athletes have a good sense of team spirit in order to have a successful season.

At left: Fredrick Hewett

With each program featuring only two returning seniors, Manizza has goals beyond just this season for the program. Manizza is recruiting heavily for next year, and wants to build the program by hopefully getting 10 to 15 impact freshmen for the 2013/14 season.

According to Manizza, the men's team has a few athletes who  have a chance to qualify nationals this season including, among them junior sprinters  Fredrick Hewett (New London) and Michael Singletary (Hartford). They could be a very talented combination in the 4x200 relay, as well.

In his first season last year after transferring from  Southern Tech Academy in Charlotte, NC -- where he played football as a post-graduate in the fall of 2009 -- Hewitt was the team's top sprinter. Indoors and outdoors, he ran to All-Little East Conference and All-New England Alliance honors at 200 and 400 meters. 

Singletary was unable to compete a year ago but is coming off a full cross country season this past fall after spending the 2010/11 year at Division I Liberty University.

According to the coach, if healthy, sophomore Lee Cattanach (New London) has the ability to break some distance records this year at 3,000 meters and in the mile. Cattanach  just finished an impressive cross country season,  where he achieved All-LEC and All-NEA recognized based upon his finish at the conference/alliance championships.

The coaching staff also maintains high expectations for sophomore Dylan Kruppa (Torrington) and junior Mark Jolley (East Berlin),  among others. Both second-year competitors are sprinters and also compete in the jumps. Other top candidates include sophomore returnees D'Vonte Chambers (West Haven) and Andre Reynolds (Hartford), the latter earning All-NEA recognition indoors as a freshman.

With the team competing at the first-ever UMass Boston Invitational - where at least 14 two and four-year institutions will be represented --  the 4x200 relay is seeded first in a 17-team field, Hewett is seeded second in the 400 and eighth in the 55, Singletary third in the 500, Jolley fifth in the high jump, Kruppa sixth in the 400, Cattanach ninth in the 5,000, Chambers tenth in the  55, and Reynolds tenth in the 55 hurdles.

The women's team also has a talented roster. Junior Lauren Hultzman (Putnam) should benefit from working with Edwards for the entire season. Last year, she qualified for the high jump and pentathlon in the New England Division III championships, gaining All-New England laurels in the high jump at both the Division III and Open championships. Manizza hopes she can add a few feet to her personal throwing record. Junior Amy Huhn (Hebron) is one of the best pole-vaulters in the LEC and feels that she has a chance to do even better this year.

Seniors Cora Gingras (East Hampton) and Christine Charpentier (Monroe) - both fourth-year letterwinners --  also have a chance to improve this season. It is Manizza's belief that Gingras  has a chance to break the school record in the triple jump.

Indoors last year, Hultzman won last year's conference and alliance high jump championships, Gingras was All-NEA in the triple jump and All-NEA and All-LEC  in the high jump and Huhn All-NEA in the pole vault.

Hultzman owns the program's indoor records in the 60 hurdles and pentathlon and shares the high jump record with Gingras. Charpentier is the lone returning member of the record-setting 4x200 relay (set in her freshman season) and joins junior Katie France (Portland) and sophomore Nikki Chambers (East Hampton) as returning members of the Distance Medley Relay which set the current record last February.

On Saturday, Hultzman and Gingras are seeded 1-2 in the high jump, Gingras, junior Tacia Bryant (Guilford) and Hultzman 3-4-5 in the long jump, Huhn second in the pole vault and Gingras second in the triple jump. In addition, the 4x400 relay is seeded sixth, freshman Kylie McCartney (Manchester) seventh in the mile, France ninth in the 3,000, Chambers ninth in the 800 and junior Akaya McElveen (New Haven) ninth in the 500.

The new coaching staff wants the teams to have a successful season,  but at the same time they emphasized the importance of education and having a good work ethic in both their students and in their sport. The staff wants to prepare these student-athletes for the rest of their lives by asking them to do the best they can in every aspect of their life right now.

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