Women's track preview: Bates boasts depth across event groups

Sophomore hurdler Amanda Kaufman is one reason for the Bates women's track and field team's bright prospects in 2019. (Brewster Burns for Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates women's track and field team is smaller in number than in recent years, "but in a really great way," says 14th-year head coach Jennifer "Jay" Hartshorn. "I think we've been more focused [in practices] and in general they know what's going on a lot more. There's a really good energy on this team."

The Bobcats open the 2019 indoor season Saturday at MIT in a tri-meet also including Colby. They will host the Bates Invitational next Saturday (Jan. 19) in their lone home meet against Division I University of Maine and Bryant University, along with Franklin Pierce, Keene State, St. Joseph's and Husson.

There are bright prospects for scoring at meets in every event group, Hartshorn says, though its big and deep crew of distance and middle distance runners will certainly be a strength. One almost perennial hope will be to field a distance medley relay team at the NCAA Championships, and perhaps in the 4x400 relay as well. And with pieces such as three-time All-America senior captain Ayden Eickhoff (Corvallis, Mont.), one-time All-America senior captain Sarah Rothmann (Andover, Mass.), sophomore Imani Boggan (Lafayette, Calif.), sophomore So Kim (Thornhill, Ontario)  and first-years Elise Lambert (Amherst, N.H.), Mary Corcoran (Brookline, Mass.) and Sophie Matt (New Albany, Ohio) and cross country All-America senior Katie Barker (Burlington, Vt.), their chances appear good.

Barker, Eickhoff and Rothmann were three of the eight athletes who made the cross country team's fifth-ever trip to the NCAA Championships in the fall. Other key members of that team, including sophomore Abby Hamilton (Yarmouth, Maine), first-year Tara Ellard (Brewster, Mass.), senior Wendy Memishian (Medway, Mass.), senior Hannah Austin (North Yarmouth, Maine), sophomore Vanessa Paolella (Dingmans Ferry, Pa.) and first-year Loren Andrews (Wellesley, Mass.).

A strong corps of hurdlers will be missing a couple standouts due to injury at MIT in senior captain Sarah Shoulta (Waterville, Maine) and sophomore Jenny Martin (Lewiston, Maine). But sophomore Amanda Kaufman (Somers, Conn.) is in position to improve upon a stellar first year. Kaufman finished her rookie indoor season ranked 84th in Division III in the 60-meter hurdles (9.31), and in the outdoor season became the second athlete in team history to complete the 100-meter hurdles in under 15 seconds, and ranked 52nd in the country (14.92). First-year Rebecca Willis (West Newbury, Mass.) makes another strong addition to the hurdles group.

Junior Ashley Pratt (Greene, Maine) will have some strong company in the pole vault group in a promising pair of first-years, Lauren Berube (Auburn, Maine) and Lily Simmons (Harpers Ferry, W.Va.). All three are likely to compete in sprints and/or relays as well.

The throwing corps comprises only two athletes, but both senior two-year captain Katie Hughes (Pittsfield, Maine) and sophomore Genesis Paulino (Lawrence, Mass.) will be relied upon for points in multiple events at championship meets. "Gen had a really strong outdoor season last year, so she's starting her second indoor season from a completely different place," said Hartshorn.

Senior Shelby Burns (Uniontown, Pa.) is injured to start the season, but looks to move up from a No. 67 national ranking in the outdoor high jump (5-3).

Boggan leads the sprinting crew with junior Casey Snow (Ridgefield, Conn.), junior Megan Seymour (West Hartford, Conn.) and senior captain Andrea Russo (Cheshire, Conn.), who leaves the team when softball season begins.