Maria Curit, a junior, will compete in the NCAA Division II championships.
By Steve Craig email@example.com
Maria Curit went to the indoor NCAA Division II track and field championships earlier this year to compete in what she thought was her specialty – the 400-meter dash.
She also ran a leg for her Stonehill College distance medley relay team, and in the process realized maybe the 400 wasn't her best event after all.
"I ran the 800 and ended up running a 2:12, I believe, and in the 400 I ended up not even making the finals," said Curit, a former Biddeford High standout.
The evidence was clear. Curit could continue to be a strong 400 runner, or she could go up to the 800 and have a chance to be among the best in the country.
"I wanted to go back to nationals and when I did go back, I wanted it to be in an event that I was able to make the final," Curit said.
Despite only running the 800 three times this outdoor season, Curit posted the nation's seventh-fastest Division II time when she finished second at the Open New Englands on May 3 in a school-record time of 2 minutes, 8.72 seconds.
Division II has both automatic and provisional qualifying standards. By running faster than 2:09, Curit became the first Stonehill female track and field athlete to make an automatic qualifying standard.
Before this season, Curit had only run an open 800 twice as a collegian, and "maybe once, I can't really remember" while competing for Biddeford.
Her first two attempts this season were a pair of winning efforts in the high 2:11s, confirming her DMR time at the indoor nationals wasn't a fluke.
"Those races, I was ahead the whole time," Curit said. "Then at New Englands I came in second and had other people to bring me through, and I was really trying to win the race and that helped a lot."
This weekend, Curit is sure to find plenty of running partners. She will race in a prelim on Friday; the final is on Saturday. The Division II championships are Thursday through Saturday at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan.
While still a novice at the 800, Curit said her experience at the indoor championships (she finished 14th in the 400 and Stonehill was ninth in the DMR) will be helpful.
"I already feel a lot more at ease about going into these nationals," Curit said. "It's definitely different when you've already experienced something because you know what to expect."
Three Division II runners have turned in sub-2:07 times. No. 1 ranked Shawnee Carnett of Concord (West Virginia) University, the 2014 indoor champ, has run a 2:06.19 this season.
"I'm going to compete the best that I can and I think good things will happen," Curit said.
Regardless of this weekend's results, the 2014 outdoor season has had plenty of highlights for Curit. Stonehill backed up its Northeast-10 indoor championship by winning the outdoor title. Curit was fifth in the 200 and third in the 400, setting school records in each.
She also posted provisional NCAA qualifying marks in the 400 (55.72) and long jump (school record 18-91/4) but did not make the final cut for those events. She earned All-East Region honors from the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in the 800, 400 and long jump.
"This year was a great year for the women's track team," Curit said.