April 16, 2014

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UMass looks to sustain momentum

After impressive finishes last weekend at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games, the Massachusetts men’s and women’s track and field teams will travel to New Haven, Conn. this Friday to compete in the Giegengack Invitational.

UMass will try to ride that momentum and build on the strong individual and team performances it recorded. Women’s coach Julie LaFreniere says she is encouraged by her team thus far, and is optimistic about the weekend ahead.

“We’re making progress,” LaFreniere said. “Hopefully we can keep up our momentum and turn out even better than last weekend. Things are looking very, very good for us.”

Last weekend in Boston, the Minutewomen finished third in a field of 17 teams. They have been improving each week, and continue to lean on the experience and leadership from their top senior members, Lisa Wilson and Holly Heinricher.

In Boston, Wilson scored 16 of the 82 points UMass tallied on her own by placing in both the shot put and the weight throw. Heinricher set a personal record in the 200-meter dash by running a time of 25.96 seconds, while also placing in the 55-meter dash. It is this kind of stability and reliability that the Minutewomen hope to use as a springboard for even better performances later in the season.

Adding to their top performers thus far, freshman Courtney Baldwin was named Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie Performer of the Week. She tallied a fourth place finish in the mile run and also helped the 4×400 relay team take second place, a finish that qualified them for the Eastern College Athletic Conference championship.

Regardless of the outcome of last weekend, LaFreniere said that with the level her team is at so early on in the season, it is hard not to get excited about its chances. She expects her team to contend in every event they enter.

“I’m expecting big things this weekend and from here on out,” LaFreniere said. “The ladies look fantastic. The 4×400 relay team should be ready to go, and I expect them to hit it hard and show me something.”

The men’s team looks just as promising headed into the Giegengack Invitational Friday. Last weekend, in the biggest meet they have competed in this season, the Minutemen finished fourth out of a field of 18 teams.

In the Reebok Boston Indoor Games last week, it was Sean Busch leading the way for UMass. Busch won the pole vault event, and qualified for the ECAC championship while setting a school record in the process. He now sits in second place all-time in the event, reaching a height of 15-05.00.

The Minutemen also saw junior Darius Velez and senior Tyler Cotto place first in their respective events for the third consecutive week. Velez was able to win the 55-meter dash in 6.48 seconds and Cotto took first place in the 55-meter hurdles with a time of 7.60 seconds.

With a total of seven members qualifying for the New England championship last week, the squad looks poised to add to that total this week in New Haven. The meet will begin at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Michael Wood can be reached at mcwood@student.umass.edu.

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