Wheeler and Coffin Set Pace for Friars Track and Field
Runners Excel in Championship Races
By Joseph Quirk ’23 and Cam Smith ’21
Sports Staff and Sports Co-Editor
Last month, two Providence College athletes took their talents to the NCAA championships. Abbey Wheeler ’20GS finished fifth in the 5,000-meter at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Maria Coffin ’21 placed 99th out of 253 runners at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. The Cowl sat down with each runner to reflect on their NCAA experiences, the challenges of racing in the COVID-19 pandemic, and their goals for the future.
Abbey Wheeler ’20GS:
During her illustrious career at PC, Abbey Wheeler ’20GS has been one of the most consistently dominant athletes on campus. Wheeler, recently named the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association 2021 Women’s Track Athlete of the Year, recently finished fifth at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships for the 5,000-meter race.
The fifth place finish earned Wheeler an All-American nod, her third in her PC career. The championships took place in Fayetteville, AR, and Wheeler described the experience as both “wonderful” and “different” from other meets she had been to because of COVID-19 protocols.
“It’s always so exciting to be at a meet where you’re truly among the best of the best,” Wheeler said. “That’s always a bit nerve-racking, but also exciting where you get to test yourself in a field where there are no soft spots.”
One would imagine that such a race would stir up a slew of emotions, but Wheeler kept herself composed, despite how difficult she said it could be. That would be needed, as she described the race itself as an “odd run” where the pack paced weirdly and stayed together for a lot of the race.
“It was really difficult to remain comfortable and composed with all those weird pacing things going on,” Wheeler said. She added that “with everyone getting a little aggressive with pacing, everyone was pushing and in your head you’re just trying to stay in it until the race actually gets going.” Despite it being easy to lose focus and composure, Wheeler was able to hang on for a strong finish, passing multiple runners in the final lap when the pack finally began to split.
This was Wheeler’s first appearance at the indoor track championships. She had previously competed in the outdoor championships and had qualified for the indoor race last year; however, it was unfortunately canceled. She said that the finish felt like a “long time coming,” especially because she felt ready to make this breakthrough at last year’s event before its cancellation.
When comparing it to previous 5,000-meter races she had run, she called it her “best performance at the national level. I definitely leveled up a bit there,” Wheeler proudly said. “My last one I was second team All-American, so this was the first time I was first team All-American, so that was super exciting.” She also pointed to a major difference between the indoor and outdoor versions of the 5,000-meter, citing that the indoor race only features 16 runners while the outdoor race features 24.
Following nationals, Wheeler proceeded to again finish fifth overall at the Raleigh Relays, one of the first races of the spring track season. Her finishing time of 15:46.87, as well as previous years’ performances, should be enough to qualify her for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field First Round in Jacksonville, FL on May 27-29.
When asked about the meet, the humble Wheeler mentioned her excitement about her time and possible qualification, before expressing a lot of happiness for her teammates who she also thinks could qualify following their performances. “It was nice to get a bunch of my other teammates to get times that can be competitive to qualify for that as well,” stated Wheeler. “That was pretty much the goal of the meet.”
Wheeler made sure to give credit to her coaches and teammates for keeping each other “grounded” throughout the season, especially with the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic held over both the school and the track season. This was especially important with a short season and a hard winter, making it difficult to stay ready and having less chances to qualify.
When reflecting back on her racing career here at PC, Wheeler noted something interesting. Aside from all the other accomplishments she has, one of her proudest moments actually came from overcoming adversity at a regional meet her junior season. “I was in the 5k and I wasn’t in particularly fantastic shape, but I was racing to get a spot in outdoor nationals,” she started. “And someone stepped on my shoe early on in the race and so I was running with my shoe kinda off. In the last mile I just kicked it off and I was running with only one shoe.”
She said in those kinds of moments it is easy to give up on yourself, but vocal support from her teammates kept her focused and pushed her forward. She ended the race with a qualifying time, and while she said it was not her best race, overcoming that adversity made her really feel that she belonged competing at this level.
As for her goals for the remainder of the season, Wheeler is “just trying to run really fast, make the championship season, and make outdoor nationals. And if I can run fast there, that would be great.”
Maria Coffin ’21:
In October 2020, Maria Coffin ’21 finishing in the top-100 at the NCAA Championships in March 2021 would have seemed improbable. After a summer of hard training, Coffin suffered a femoral stress reaction in October, which effectively shut down her training for the foreseeable future. When she was finally able to ramp back up her training in January 2021, the cross country schedule remained murky as COVID-19 regulations stayed in flux.
Nevertheless, Coffin persevered. Coming into her trip to nationals, she had just raced once, in the Big East Championships. Her performance there booked her a ticket to Stillwater, OK to compete with the best cross country runners in the nation.
The massive field of 253 runners, and a distinctly challenging course, made the event a grueling one for all parties involved. “It was a very difficult course,” said Coffin. “Super windy, super hilly. I’d definitely say it’s the hardest one I’ve run in my career.”
Coffin’s plan going into the race was to stay middle of the pack for the first half of the event, explaining that “in a course like that you can’t really go out too quick, so I was trying to be conservative, stay in the middle, and then do most of my damage in the last half of the race.”
Coffin did just that, passing 28 runners in the final 3,000 meters of the race. “When I finished, I really had no idea where I was,” explained Coffin. “I was hoping I had gotten in the top 100 and luckily I just made that.”
This was not Coffin’s first trip to the biggest stage in the sport. In the 2017-2018 cross country season, her entire team qualified for the event, allowing her to participate in nationals in just her freshman year. That time around, Coffin placed 245th.
“That was definitely a tough race for me as a freshman,” said Coffin. “I definitely did not do nearly as well [as this time].” Indeed, three years later, Coffin shaved off over a minute on her time, vaulting her up 146 spots. “It was cool to come back and really see that improvement,” she added.
As much as Coffin was thrilled to be able to finish top-100 at nationals, she also lamented the fact that her team could not be there with her. It was always going to be an uphill battle for the team, as the Big East Championship was the only time they could all compete together as a squad. “We have such a young team, it was pretty difficult for the freshmen without much race experience to jump right into the Big East Conference meet,” said Coffin. “They still did really well there considering that was the first cross country race of their collegiate careers…I think that will help us next year having a few races under our belt.”
Coffin, a senior who will be returning as a graduate student next year, will get the chance to again lead her team in a season that will hopefully resemble a normal one. She has high hopes for a squad that she says will return more experienced and more confident. Coffin’s goals: a Big East championship, an NCAA regional victory, and a whole team appearance at nationals.
For Coffin herself, “[I want] to improve upon my place and try to get around that All-American top-40 status at nationals.” With a full slate of races next season, and an injury far in the rearview mirror, Coffin has what it takes to do just that.
End of February Sports Sports
Week of 2/25-3/3
By Joseph Quirk ’23
The Providence College Men’s Soccer Team opened Big East play on Feb. 27 at the University of Connecticut. The Friars beat the Huskies 2-0. Paulo Lima ’22 opened the scoring in the 13th minute, converting a penalty kick. In the 61st minute, the Friars would ice the game on Gevork Diarbian’s ’24 second career goal. The shutout win was the second of goalkeeper Rimi Olatunji’s ’22 career.
Women’s Indoor Track:
On Feb. 25, the Providence College Women’s Indoor Track Team traveled to the University of Rhode Island to take on the Rams and Northeastern University. The meet was a resounding success for the Friars. Abbey Wheeler ’20GS dominated the 3,000-meter with a time of 9:17.17. Tessa Hunt ’23 secured victory in the mile, while Alex O’Neill ’23 never relinquished her lead in the 800-meter. Additionally, PC’s distance medley relay team also beat out their competition, capping off a phenomenal performance by the Friars.
The Providence College Men’s Basketball Team got a much-needed win on Feb. 24 at home versus Xavier University. The Friars 83-68 rout improved their record to 12-11 overall and 8-9 in conference play. Noah Horchler ’21RS had a breakout game with 20 points (7-14 from the field, 3-5 from three) with nine rebounds and two blocks. The Friars also had fantastic production from all their big scorers including David Duke ’22 and A.J. Reeves ’22.
Men’s Ice Hockey:
The Providence College Men’s Ice Hockey Team started their weekend pair of games with a win on Feb. 27 at Northeastern University and ended it on Feb. 28 with a tie in Providence. The Friars exited the weekend with a record of 10-7-5. On Feb. 27, the Friars defeated the Huskies 4-2, and were led by goalie Jaxson Stauber ’23, who had 11 saves. Northeastern scored with a minute left in play, making it a 3-2 game, but the game was iced on an open net goal by Matt Koopman ’22.
On Feb. 28, the teams headed to Friartown, where the Friars tied but dropped the shootout. Patrick Moynihan ’23 and Chase Yoder ’24 would each notch a goal and an assist, while Greg Printz ’21 would record a goal of his own that would tie the game 3-3 just over three minutes in the third period. Neither team could end it in overtime play, as the game went to a shootout that the Huskies won 2-0.
Sport Shorts Feb. 27-March 5
Sport Shorts Week of 2/27-3/05
by Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
Indoor Track and Field:
The Providence College Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track Teams turned in impressive performances over the weekend at the Big East Championships in Geneva, OH. Day one of the competition featured an Abbey Wheeler ’20 women’s 5,000-meter victory, the first Big East Championship in her storied PC career. Wheeler maintained her positioning in the lead pack for most of the race before pulling away from the rest of the runners with five laps to go. Day one also featured a remarkable first place finish in the distance medley relay by the grouping of Tessa Hunt ’23, Niamh Gowing ’22, Alex O’Neil ’23, and Lilly Tuck ’23. The foursome started off strong thanks to an explosive push out of the gates from Hunt. The squad never relinquished the lead from that point on. Day two of the event saw Wheeler achieve another Big East Championship, this time in the women’s 3,000-meter. Tuck and Maria Coffin ’21 also finished strong in the same race, placing second and fifth respectively. Day two also saw Michael O’Leary ’19GS finish second in the 3,000-meter on the men’s side due to a strong push on the final lap. The weekend was made all the better for the Friars as it was announced that Wheeler had been named Co-Most Outstanding Track Performer, putting the perfect finishing touch on her Big East career.
The Providence College Men’s Lacrosse Team took home the Ocean State Cup on Feb. 29, defeating Brown University 13-12 in a thrilling overtime contest. The Friars dominated the first half of the game, outshooting Brown 23-14 on their way to a 7-4 halftime lead. The start of the second half would be much of the same, as John Hoffman ’23 started a scoring onslaught for PC that netted three more Friar goals. The Bears would claw their way back into the game, scoring three goals in the final 2:27 minutes of the game to knot the contest up at 12 a piece heading into overtime. PC would escape with the victory on a Sean Leahey ’20 game-winner, a shot that would give him three goals on the day and his second hat trick of the season.
The Providence College Men’s Hockey Team got a much-needed win on Feb. 29, as they took down the fifteenth ranked University of Maine Black Bears. Jack Dugan ’22 got the scoring going for the Friars, as he exploded out of the box to snag the puck at the blue line before sneaking a backhander past the Maine goalie. Goals by Jason O’Neill ’21 and Greg Printz ’21 would add to the lead, although Maine would keep it close in the third period. In the end, the play of Friar goalie Michael Lackey ’20GS would allow PC to hold on in the third, as he turned away 13 shots in the period on the way to a 3-2 PC victory.
Sports Shorts Weeks of Jan. 18-Jan. 26
By Meaghan Cahill ’20 and Jack Belanger ’21
On Jan. 26, the Providence College Women’s Basketball Team snapped an eight-game losing streak and earned their first Big East win of the year, beating Xavier University 60-48. The Friars only scored 15 points in the first half before finding their groove after halftime. Three players finished in double-figures for points, led by Earlette Scott ’22 who finished with a career high 20, including 11 made free throws. Kaela Webb ’22 scored 10 of her 12 points in the fourth quarter. As a team, PC shot 41.3 percent from the field while holding the Musketeers to 27 percent. The Friars are now 10-11 in the season.
Indoor Track and Field:
On Jan. 18, the Providence College Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track Teams competed at the Boston University Multi-Team Meet, which featured six additional schools from throughout New England and Ireland. During the meet, four women runners qualified for the ECAC Championships: Maria Coffin ’21, Abbey Wheeler ’20, Lilly Tuck ’23, and Bridget Mitchell ’22; and four men qualified for the IC4A Championships: Michael O’Leary ’19GS, Jack Carleo ’21, Marcelo Rocha ’21, and Ryan Gallagher ’21. Coffin ran a personal best in the 3,000-meter event which she placed first in, and Wheeler finished first in the mile run. On the men’s side, O’Leary finished first in the 3,000-meter run and Carleo finished first in the 800-meter sprint.
The following weekend, the Friars returned to Boston to compete in the John Thomas Terrier Classic where multiple Friars, including Wheeler, Coffin, and Carleo finished top-ten in their respective events. Ryan Jendzejec’s ’21 2:28.04 time in the 1,000-meter dash qualified him to compete in the IC4 Championships.
Swim and Dive:
On Saturday, January 25, the Providence College Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Teams hosted the University of Maine. It was the Friars’ senior meets and the men’s team gained their second consecutive win with a score of 195-99; the women’s team tied 150-150. Four different swimmers on the men’s team set new school records: Kevin Hood ’23 in the 100-meter breaststroke, Justin Viotto ’22 in the 200-meter butterfly, and both the 200-meter medley and 200-meter freestyle relay teams. The women’s team had six first place finishes: Sally Alrutz ’23 in the 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter butterfly, and the 200-meter backstroke; Elizabeth Murray ’23 in the 800-meter freestyle; Jennifer Banks ’22 in the 400-meter freestyle; and Taylor Loud ’23 in the 200-meter freestyle. The team’s final regular season meet will take place this upcoming weekend against Seton Hall University and Georgetown University in New Providence, NJ.
Millie Paladino ’19 Races to Success
Paladino has Highest Finish for PC Since 1994
by Meaghan Cahill ’20
For the first time since 1994, Millie Paladino ’19RS became the highest mile finisher from Providence College to place at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Placing third in the nation in an event that only 16 people nationwide qualified for, Paladino ran a 4:38.44 mile, a time that also earned her First Team All-America Honors.
Having been told by Head Coach Ray Treacy that she could finish anywhere from eighth to first, Paladino says that she was “really happy and proud” of her accomplishment.
“It means a lot for me to do it for the school because it’s one of our highest places in the last couple of years so I think it really puts the team and the program on the map in the NCAA, which is always really good to do,” Paladino commented.
Her third place finish concluded a very tactical race in which Paladino reserved her energy by maintaining a solid seventh place position and then pulling ahead to third in the final 100 meters. To Paladino, the race was more mind over matter as she felt she had to prepare for it more mentally than physically.
“For prep…your physical prep is done [during the season]. You have to really work on telling yourself that you’re good enough to do this and that you’re prepared for this. The whole season has led up to this…I just have to tell myself that it’s not worth it to step on the line if you’re not confident in what you can do. Otherwise, why do it at all?” said Paladino.
Having transferred to PC from West Virginia University after her sophomore year because she felt that she would not get to be the best runner that she could be if she remained there, Paladino primarily chose to join the Friar family due to the success of Coach Treacy.
“He’s the best in the biz!” praised Paladino when talking about Treacy’s influence to come to PC. “I never looked back.”
In her time with the Friars, Paladino has a number of top-three regular season finishes and has consistently been recognized by earning NCAA First Team All-America Honors. At the Big East level, Paladino recently won her third career Big East title when she was crowned 3,000-meter champion—the first Friar to win the event since 2015. She also set a school record for the 1,000-meter race this season with a time that is also the 12th fastest mark in collegiate history.
Paladino’s continued success, especially within this current season, in what she describes as a “day-to-day” sport, has all added up to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association naming Paladino the 2019 Northeast Region Female Track Athlete of the Year.
And while Paladino recognizes that running is very much an individual sport, she does not believe she could have had any of her success without her team.
“I can only do so much on my own…I owe the whole world to [the team] honestly,” says Paladino. “I think people really underestimate the people you are surrounded by and if I didn’t have my teammates to train with throughout the season…I would never have gotten this far.”
On the topic of her teammates, Paladino admitted that the cross country team’s Big East Championship win her junior year is her favorite memory.
“I still wear my ring,” she proudly admitted.
With the winter track season coming to a close, Paladino and the rest of the track teams are gearing up and heading outdoors with the start of the spring season, a season in which Paladino says the only main difference is that things are done outside.
“Mileages stay the same and your focus has to stay the same so your focus does not look that different even though it might,” she comments on going from one season to the other.
With a goal of finishing out her career at PC with an outdoor track Big East Championship title, Paladino also hopes to make it to Nationals again and just “make the most [of her final season].” And with the end in sight, she hopes to keep running and as she gets more “mature” in her running, she plans to up her distance, hoping to eventually run a marathon.
“But, I think that’s so far in the future,” she concludes.
Paladino will continue her distance running into the spring season, running both the 1,500 meter race as well as the mile as that is where her “strengths” are.
“Never give in,” is how she would encapsulate her running career. “If it’s really what you love and it’s your dream, keep chasing it because you’ll really surprise yourself.”
Track Team Finds Success at Big East Championship
By Christian Rada ’22
This past week, the Big East Conference announced the All-Big East Conference squad; which is comprised of competitors who finished in the top three of any individual or relay event in the championships. Fifty-nine women and 61 men complete the list. A total of 31 student-athletes—17 women, 18 men—earned all-conference for multiple events. This year many Friars qualified for the Big East team including Jack Carleo ’21, Nick Carleo ’20, Trevor Crawley ’19, Ryan Jendzejec ’21, Michael O’Leary ’19, Daniel Rooney ’21, Maria Coffin ’21, Alex DeCicco ’20, Mariah O’Gara ’20, Millie Paladino ’19, Catarina Rocha ’19RS, and Abbey Wheeler ’20.
On Feb. 23, the Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track Teams competed in the Big East Tournament with the women’s team finishing seventh overall with 51 points and the men’s team finishing sixth with 33 points. Paladino blew the crowd away making huge strides from the beginning. She and her fellow teammate Briana Ilarda ’19 were in the leading front three bombing for the finish line. By the last 200 meters, it was a race for first between the two Friars and a Villanova athlete. Paladino would finish first overall in a time of 9:24.29. This resulted in back-to-back 3,000-meter titles for Paladino. Ilarda would finish second overall with a time of 9:26.34, and Regan Rome ’GS would come in fourth securing points for the Friars.
For the men’s indoor team, Rooney had a strong showing for the Friars in the 60 meter hurdle finals and would place eighth overall in a time of 8.68 which was .02 seconds less than his previous record making a new personal record. Rooney’s time is now the second all-time fastest in the school’s history. Michael Bittner ’20 took eighth place in the high jump with a height of 1.85 meters. The men’s 4×800 meter relay team of Carleo, Jendzejec, Carleo, and Michael Wyman ’GS took the lead for the first two legs of the relay. On the third leg it was a battle between the Friars and the Wildcats. The team finished with a silver medal with a time of 7:32.54, only four seconds off the school record.
This past weekend both the PC Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track Teams competed in the IC4A Championships at Boston University. The Friars excelled in many races in just the first two days, some even breaking their own personal records. For the men’s indoor track team, Jendzejec started his race in the 1,000 meter finals. Jendzejec placed eighth overall and ran a PR of 2:27.33, which is almost seven seconds faster than his previous race. Veteran runners, Marcus Karamanolis ’19 and Marcelo Rocha ’21, both competed in the 3,000 meter finals. Karamanolis ran his heart out as he finished ninth in the seeded heat in a time of 8:19.55. For the women’s indoor track team, six Friars competed in the preliminary heats. DeCicco raced the preliminaries of the 1,000 meters and finished eighth in her heat with a time of 3:02.55.
PC Competes at Big East Championship
Plenty of Highlights for PC Track and Field
by Thomas Zinzarella ’21
Although the weather cooled down this past weekend, things were heating up at the Big East Indoor Track & Field Championship in Staten Island, New York. While neither the Providence College Men’s or Women’s Track and Field Teams came away with a trophy, there were many positives to be taken away from both teams.
With a relatively young men’s team, many freshmen got to experience their first Big East Championship. Michael Bittner ’21 felt “a little nervous warming up…it was a different feel from high school where you were the best and now there are guys who are better than you.” Bittner went on to have his best performance of the season with a fifth place finish in the men’s High Jump. Fellow Friar Trevor Crawley ’18 GS finished seventh in a highly contested Men’s 3,000-meter race and Michael O’Leary ’19 finished sixth in the one-mile event with a time of 4:11.97.
The high point of the day for the Friars was the 4×800 meter relay team featuring O’Leary, Nick Carleo ’19, Jack Carleo ’21 and Ryan Jendzejec ’21. The PC, Villanova University, and Georgetown University teams were all neck and neck until the final lap, when all three teams began to separate, leaving the Friars in third. The team featured the Carleo brothers, who have not been on the same team since they were both in high school. When asked how it felt to be reunited, Jack said, “It’s a good feeling being on the same team with Nick again because not many people get to run with a family member for this long, being on the same relay team with him again is awesome.”
The Friars look to continue their freshman surge into the springtime for the outdoor season, as Angus White ’21, Ryan Gallagher, Marcelo Rocha ’21, Henry Spangler ’21, and David Rosas ’21 rejoin for the spring season.
With talent carrying over from the indoor season, the sky is the limit for the next four years. Bittner and Carleo are hoping that the team can capture a Big East Championship and add to the storied history of the Track & Field Program at PC.
On the women’s side, the Friars were led from the top down by Millie Paladino ’18, who won the 3,000-meter with a time of 9:18.45. Paladino won the one-mile event last year and became the sixth woman to win both the 3,000-meter and the one mile event in Big East history.
The Friars would continue to shine in the 5,000-meter event as the Friars went 1-2 with Catarina Rocha ’18 GS leading the way with a time of 16:05.85, while Abbey Wheeler ’20 finished just behind her with a time of 16:07.39. Rocha netted her first Big East indoor title, and her third title overall.
The Friars also added a top three finish in the distance medley race with Paladino leading the charge once again. She teamed up with Mariah O’Gara ’20, Alexandra DeCicco ’20, and Maria Coffin ’21. The group was able to churn in a third-place finish in a heated battle with a time of 11:40.86.
Both squads look to try and build on the winter season and are preparing for their next event, the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships on March 2-3.