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UMass-Lowell 4x400 relay team cracks New England record

Bob Ellis

UMass Lowell 4x400 runners (from left) Craig Bennett, Ryad Bencheikh, Evan White, and Jeff Wundt.

UMass Lowell cuts NE’s relay record

Their talent as sprinters is impressive. But how would the four perform as a unit, running the 4x400 at last week’s Boston University Terrier Invitational, which attracted college programs from Division 1, 2, and 3, as well as track & field clubs from across the country.

That was University of Massachusetts Lowell track coach Gary Gardner’s question.

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It didn’t take long to find out.

Craig Bennett, Ryad Bencheikh, Evan White, and Jeff Wundt sped around the oval at BU’s Track and Tennis Center in 3 minutes, 9.39 seconds, breaking the New England mark set by Boston University (3:09.83) in 2003 and punching their ticket to the NCAA Division 2 championships in March in Mankato, Minn.

It was the fastest time by a Division 2 foursome in the country this season. Only Zenith Velocity Athletic Club of New York City ran faster (3:09.31).

“It was a good day for us, and obviously we’re ecstatic about what we did,’’ said Gardner. “But we made a couple of mistakes along the way that we need to correct. Just little things, but you tweak a little here and tweak a little there and you take another second off. We still have six weeks or so until the NCAAs. . . .

“Individually, these four are really fast. That’s one of the reasons I put them together. Plus, they’re roommates and they get along well and push each other. As individuals, they’re outstanding. You put them together and this is the result. Having Zenith Velocity in the field really helped us. We pushed them all the way.’’

Bennett, Bencheikh, Wundt, and White have each met the NCAA provisional qualifying time for the 400 meters.

Bennett, a junior from Milton, ran the first leg, grabbing the lead in 47.4 seconds. He handed off to Woburn’s Bencheikh, who ran a 46.8 second split. Wundt (Southwick) retained the lead with his 47.9-second effort, and White, the pride of Tewksbury, breezed home in 46.6.

“It was awesome,’’ said White. “I had no idea we had set a New England record. Overall, though, there’s room for improvement, especially on my leg.’’

Now that the group has qualified for NCAAs as a team, Bencheikh feels the four can concentrate more on their individual efforts. “We don’t have to worry now about being there as a team,’’ he said. “Now we want to make sure we all get there as individuals.’’

Overall, the BU Terrier Invitational was a huge success for the River Hawks. In addition to the 4x400 relay team earning a berth in the NCAAs, so did seniors AngusMacDonald of Methuen and Jeff Viega of Lowell. Third and fourth on the NCAA list, each met the criteria in the 5,000 meters - MacDonald in 14:14.45 and Veiga in 14:15.97.

Campus corner

It was a banner week for area athletes representing MASCAC. Salem State junior Justin Nieves of Lawrence, Westfield State freshman JenAshton of Beverly, and Fitchburg State senior Matt Muolo of Stoneham all earned weekly honors. Nieves was men’s basketball Player of the Week after averaging 15.5 points in wins over Westfield State and Worcester State; Ashton copped honors for women, averaging 27 points, seven steals, and 5.5 assists in wins over Fitchburg State and Salem State; and Muolo was track and field performer of the week, winning weight throw and shot put in the MIT Invitational. . . . Brandeis sophomore JulianCardillo of Medford went 8-2 to lead the Judges to a 3-2 record in a Northeast Fencing Conference meet. Brandeis beat Dartmouth, Tufts, and Vassar, but fell to BC and Brown. Cardillo’s 88% winning percentage was tops in the foil competition.

Here and there

Haverhill lacrosse tri-captain ErikMangrum has committed to Endicott College of the Commonwealth Coast Conference. He is an All-Merrimack Valley Conference defenseman and co-captain with goalie Josh White and attackman Nathaniel Vasquez. . . . The Lowell Spinners of the N.Y.-Penn League announced Bruce Crabbe will return as manager. Crabbe managed the Spinners in 2006 and 2010. Last year he led the Double AA Salem (Va.) Red Sox to a 64-75 record. Crabbe is in his eighth year in the Red Sox organization. The Spinners open their season June 18.

John Vellante can be reached at JohnPVel@aol.com. Send story ideas to clarson@globe.com.

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