Jaspers Win Six Events at the MLK Tribute Invitational and Two Athletes Named Field Athletes of the Week

By Lauren Raziano, Asst. Sports Editor/Web Editor

The Manhattan College Track & Field team had great success at the MLK Tribute Invitational this weekend, with a record six wins for the men’s team and two athletes named MAAC Field Athletes of the Week. 

At the MLK Tribute Invitational, hosted by St. John’s University at the Ocean Breeze Complex, the men’s track and field team posted five overall individual wins and a relay win. For the women, Alexandra Preckajlo won first place in the shot-put competition, with a mark of 14.34m. 

Harrison Alonzo, a sophomore sprinter, won the 300m in 35.95. Alonzo was two-tenths in front of teammate Brain Saul in the 300m to make it a 1-2 of Manhattan freshmen.

Robert Decker, a sophomore thrower, finished first in the weight throw (17.30m). Decker’s win was by more than three meters and he led a 1-2-3 finish of Jaspers. 

The Jaspers team of Brian Odour, Kaya Simpson, Brian Saul, and Harrison Alonzo won the 4×400 relay in a time of 3:29.11. The quartet was over nine seconds clear of the second team.

Additionally, Jackson Heft, a sophomore jumper, took the top spot in the pole vault with a mark of 3.55m. 

Marc Carrera, a senior track and field athlete, crossed the line in first in 1:55.79 to win the 800m.

“It was just good to get the win and we swept a couple events,” Carrera said. “ It’s not really about running the fastest or jumping to the highest, it’s about winning as we prepare for the MAAC Championship in a month.” 

Carrera is looking forward to this season and the new team members, especially after the cancellation of the Indoor 2021 season.

“I’m really excited for this upcoming season, we have a lot of young talent,” Carrera said. “A lot of our freshmen are really contributing to the team. We have a lot of explosive people and I think we’re gonna make a lot of noise.”

The Jaspers also recorded top-three finishes in the mile, Michael Hennelly, long jump, Brian Odour, and the 800m, Travis Delaney and Justin Jordaens.

Preckajlo and Anu Awonusi were named MAAC Field Athletes of the Week after both throwers set new MAAC leading marks.

Preckajlo won the women’s shot put competition with a 14.34m toss and Awonusi won the men’s with a distance of 15.85m.

“It was really awesome to be named MAAC Performer of the Week, two weeks in a row,” Preckajlo said. “I feel like you could really see our training paying off in the weight room and out here in the circle at Draddy. It’s great to be with my team and I’m glad to see the recognition from all my hard work.”

Preckajlo is looking forward to the competition in the MAAC this season.

“I think we will be pretty competitive in the MAAC, although we do have a young group of throwers,” Preckajlo said. “I feel like a lot of our seniors and grad students can really help in training and at meets for the younger kids and I can see us performing well in the MAAC.”

While COVID-19 canceled the track and field season last year, Preckajlo said that it has helped the team strengthen their throwing technique and also their community. 

“I feel like the community our team has is a big strength,” Preckajlo said. “You’ll see a lot of us are able to support each other, we say our team is like a family, and specifically for the throwing team you can really see that when we compete and at practice how close we are. I feel like that helps us push each other to compete to the best of our ability every day.”

Awonusi achieved his new MAAC leading mark on his second throw. 

“It was a small stepping stone,” Awonusi said. “I’ve been out for two years so it’s a bit of a long grind to get back to the PR. We will keep building and see how it goes.”

As a graduate student Awonusi has seen the progression of the team and he recognizes the impacts of COVID-19 and how it has strengthened the team to achieve its goals. 

“It was definitely very difficult because we all missed out on the COVID-19 season and then I got injured so it was definitely a tough kind of grind to get back into throwing shape,” Awonusi said. “It’s been really cool to be able to watch my fellow athletes and fellow friends dig a bit harder to get the season going.”

Awonusi’s throw was over two meters clear of freshman teammate Peter Athanailos. Joseph Pelio, a sophomore thrower, achieved second and Athanailos finished third.  

“I’m excited to kind of get back into the competition and, you know, throw my name into the bucket and try and go back for it again,”Awonusi said.