A Look Back at a Historic 2015-16
The Warriors put together the most successful and decorated year in the six-year history of the program in the indoor and outdoor seasons during 2015-16, highlighted by the first individual National Champion in the history of Merrimack College in senior captain Carly Muscaro. Muscaro claimed the National Title in the 400m dash in the indoor season, then defended that title in the spring to win the 400m Outdoor National Title.
The Warriors also sent a program-record five athletes to the National Championship meet in the indoor season, including the first male to achieve that feat in senior captain John Braga. In his first trip to Nationals, the North Reading, Mass. native would also become the first male All-American for the program, placing sixth in the heptathlon. Braga repeated that feat in the outdoor season, earning a trip to Nationals in the decathlon where he again earned All-American status.
The teams' success was no different during the 2015-16 season, as both the men and women set new program-highs in their finishes at the Northeast-10 Conference Championships for both the indoor and outdoor seasons. The women placed third at the conference championships in both seasons, while they men garnered sixth and fifth-place finishes in the indoor and outdoor season, respectively.
Head coach Jacky Mendes enters her third year at the helm of the track & field programs, continuing to lead the Warriors to skyrocketing success in her short stint at Merrimack. In just two seasons as head coach, Mendes delivered the program's first-ever National Champion, brought two individuals and a relay team to Nationals for the first time in program history, set program-best finishes at the Northeast-10 Conference Championships, and has nearly rewritten the program's record book. She has also reinvigorated the program's reputation and recruiting, increasing the size of both rosters each year while bringing in recruits that have performed as some of the best rookies in the region.
Entering her third year in 2016-17, Mendes will look to continue to deliver the same year-to-year improvements that she has displayed the past two seasons and again guide the Warriors to their most successful season ever, with eyes on a conference championship.
Muscaro returns to captain the women Warriors in her senior season, with Merrimack opening up the year ranked #16 in the country in the USTFCCCA Preseason National Team Rankings. Joining Muscaro in leading the Warriors on the track will be fellow senior captain Olivia Downey, while classmate Kiana Weary will join Muscaro and Downey to headline what could be one of the top 4x400m relay teams in the nation.
Senior captain Sarah Barnett readies for her senior campaign after a breakout junior season in multiple events. Barnett broke a plethora of records during her junior season while taking home the first individual titles of her career. She set a new program record in the long jump while winning the NE-10 Title in the event at the indoor conference championships, then claimed the NE-10 Title in the heptathlon in the outdoor championships, while also garnering Athlete of the Meet honors.
The Warriors will also turn to a pair of sophomore for strong contributions after bursting onto the scene during their rookie campaign, including the reigning NE-10 Indoor Track Rookie of the Year in Michaela Pernell. Pernell began her career by earning four of the first six NE-10 Track Rookie of the week honors, while her and classmate Mariessa Ricciardi both contributed to the highly successful season of the 4x400m relay team. Ricciardi also claimed USTFCCCA All-Academic honors to cap her rookie season.
After establishing himself as one of the top multiple-event athletes in the country, Braga will look to build on his All-American seasons in 2015-16 and go for a National Title in 2016-17. The senior captain will also go for the career sweep in the decathlon at the Northeast-10 Conference Outdoor Championships, as he brought home his third consecutive conference title in the event last spring.
Braga will be joined by fellow seniors Denzel Livingston and Phil Harris to captain a young but very skilled Warriors roster. Livingston will look to provide leadership in both the sprinting and jumping events for Merrimack, while Harris will look to guide the way in the long distance events on the track after a quality senior campaign with the cross country team.
The success experienced by the Warriors in 2015-16 was in many a result of a stacked freshman class that will now look to build on their rookie seasons as sophomores. Jacob Robinson shined for the Warriors on the track in his freshman season, culminating in an NE-10 Title at the Outdoor Championships in the 400m dash as a rookie. A five-time NE-10 Rookie of the Week honoree last year, Michael Cuesta will also look to build on a breakout season that saw him excel in both sprints and jumps for the Warriors. Fellow sophomores Juwan Hall and Aidan Friend also figure to contribute on the track after solid rookie campaigns.
Both the men and women enter the 2016-17 season with new look squads, with both sides adding 17 freshmen to their rosters each. They'll compete in 14 meets during the indoor season, hopefully ending at the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 10-11, then will compete in 12 meets in the outdoor season, beginning in March. The Warriors kick off the indoor season on Saturday, December 3 at the UMass Boston Indoor Opener.