By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BROCKTON, Mass. -- The 2018-19 area college sports year comes to a close this week at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
The men’s and women’s teams at Stonehill College and Bridgewater State University will be represented at the national event, which begins Thursday and ends Saturday.
The Skyhawks have three athletes competing in the Division 2 meet, which is being held in Kingsville, Texas while the Bears have five athletes in the Division 3 meet, which will take place in Geneva, Ohio.
Stonehill’s participants from the men’s team are Lucas Taxter in the 1,500-meter run and Stephen Vercollone of Pembroke in the 800 while Madison Ward has qualified for the women’s meet in the high jump.
Bridgewater State has three men in the NCAAs, including javelin throwers Joshua Moore and Ryan Bain and Joshua Higgins in the 800. The women’s team will have Jacyi Andrews of Plymouth in the 100 and 400 hurdles races and Kira Gilbreath in the shot put.
Joshua Higgins: The junior is in the NCAAs for a second time after competing in the 800 and in the 4x400 relay race at the 2018 indoor championships.
He is seeded No. 15 in the 800 after qualifying with a time of 1:51.87 and will be in the preliminary race Friday afternoon with the final Saturday afternoon. Higgins owns the school indoor record in the 800 and is part of the record-setting 4x400 relay teams in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
“He had a strong cross country season and rolled right into the indoor season, then dealt with a couple of injuries late in the season,″ said BSU coach Connor Foley. “He’s only gotten stronger throughout the outdoor season. We knew his fitness level was there and we were just waiting for a good race to play out. It’s not surprising with the work he puts in.″
Joshua Moore: The sophomore will be making his NCAA debut seeded eighth in the javelin, which takes place Thursday at 5:15 p.m..
Moore qualified in his first meet of the season on March 30, breaking the school record with a throw of 199 feet, six inches at the UMass Dartmouth Corsair Classic.
“He was just on the outside (of qualifying) last year and now he’s in the mix,″ said Foley. “The first throw he had this season he broke the school record and hasn’t looked back since. He was ready to go.″
Ryan Bain: The junior is seeded No. 18 in the javelin, qualifying with a throw of 194-7. Bain won the MASCAC championship last month.
“He’s been throwing well,″ said Foley. “We’re looking for him to pop a big one and hopefully put himself in contention. He’s definitely been progressing year after year.″
Jayci Andrews: After winning the indoor national championship in the 60-meter hurdles in March, the Plymouth resident is seeded No. 1 in the 100 hurdles and is No. 7 in the 400 hurdles. This is Andrews’ sixth appearance in the NCAAs and she will compete in the 100 hurdles preliminary Friday at 2:30 with the 400 hurdles preliminary Friday at 4:25.
Kira Gilbreath: The senior also qualified for the nationals last spring and is seeded No. 18 in the shot put this spring. She qualified with a throw of 44-6.25.
Gilbreath, who is the BSU record holder in the shot put, competes Friday at 2 p.m.
“She has battled back from injuries that held her up during the indoor season,″ said Foley. “She bounced back and put herself in a position to qualify and hopefully will come away with good marks to end her career on a good note.″
Lucas Taxter: The senior will be bidding for a third All-America performance in this academic year after receiving that recognition in cross country last November and indoor track in March.
He played 19th in the cross country race and was seventh in the indoor mile. Taxter is seeded 18th in the 1,500 and will run a preliminary race Thursday night, looking to qualify for the final on Saturday night.
Taxter is making his fifth trip to the NCAAs and first during the outdoor season. He qualified with a time of 3:48.99 to win the New England championship.
“He’s had a great career,″ said Skyhawks coach Karen Boen. “He’s consistently been one of the best athletes in the (Northeast-10) conference in both the 800 and the mile.″
Stonehill has had only one male athlete earn All-America honors in cross country plus indoor and outdoor track, Keith Gill of Brockton.
The Xaverian graduate was part of the distance medley relay team that was fifth in the country to receive All-America status during the indoor season in 2018.
Stephen Vercollone: The Pembroke High graduate is seeded No. 12 in the 800, qualifying with a school-record time of 1:50.28 to place second at the New England Championships.
Vercollone, a senior who was a four-year soccer player, received All-America honors at the 2018 indoor meet as part of the distance medley relay team that was fifth. Vercollone also was in the NCAAs in March, running in the 800 at the indoor championships.
He will race Friday night in the preliminaries with a spot in the Saturday night final on the line.
Madison Ward: The junior is making her first trip to the NCAAs and is the No. 14 seed. She set a Stonehill record of 5-7.75 to win the NE-10 championship and will compete Friday night.
Ward is the Skyhawks first female high jumper to qualify for the NCAAs.
“She came real close last year,″ said Boen. “She has improved immensely.″