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May 5, 2017

UMass finishes sixth in field of 30

The Massachusetts track and field team looked impressive, as they completed the two-day New England Championship event in Boston on Saturday.

Serving as an opportunity to compete against the most elite individuals in the region, the New England Championship meet was expected to be a trial for all the men and women who entered. However, the competition did not deter either team, as both the men’s and women’s team finished in sixth place overall in a field of over 30 teams.

The Minutemen started the meet off on the right foot with performances by Zach Koncki and Tyler Cotto. Koncki took third place in the long jump by, jumping to a distance of 23-01.25 meters. That mark was good enough for the fourth-best distance in UMass history, and also qualified Koncki for the IC4A Championship. Cotto once again dominated his signature event, the 55-meter hurdles, by beating his own record-breaking time and moving on to Saturday’s final.

Rounding out the first day of competition, Ryan DiOrio continued to emerge as a dependable distance runner by finishing third in the preliminaries of the 800-meter run and qualifying for the IC4A meet. Sam Laorenza also qualified for the IC4A in the 500-meter run, and Sean Busch placed sixth in the pole vault.

The Minutemen stood in 10th place after the first day of competition. Matching their male counterparts every step of the way, the Minutewomen were also in good standing upon the completion of day one in Boston.

Just as it has been several times this season, freshman Nicole Pompei led the UMass attack. Adding to her already impressive first season, Pompei finished in sixth place in the pole vault with a mark of 11-05.75 feet. She was the only member of her team to score during the first day of competition, leaving the Minutewomen in 17th place.

Although they did not gather points in any other event, five Minutewomen advanced past Friday’s preliminary events. Holly Heinricher set a mark of 25.21 seconds in the 200-meter dash. Brittany Bakanowski and Deanna Julian nearly set personal bests in the 500-meter run, Courtney Baldwin qualified with a time of 2:57.82 minutes in the 1000-meter run and Gina Perno moved on in the 800-meter run as well.

On day two, neither team held back, as six records were either broken or improved upon, and five events saw qualifying marks.

A leader of the Minutemen all year long, Cotto proved that he can not only compete with the best, but that he can beat them as well. His time of 7.41 seconds in the 55-meter dash earned him the title of a New England Champion and UMass’ highest scorer in the meet. In doing so, Cotto bested his own record-breaking time by .13 seconds and missed qualifying for the National Collegiate Athletic Association meet by .24 seconds.

Finishing the meet in sixth place with 33 points, UMass also saw its 4×400-meter relay team, as well as its 4×800-meter team qualify for the IC4A Championship this weekend.

The Minutewomen were not far behind their peers on Saturday, as they successfully rebounded from Friday’s preliminary events.

UMass records were set by four athletes on day two of the meet, catapulting the Minutewomen up 11 spots in the standings to a sixth place finish.

Leading the attack for a second straight week was junior jumper Stephanie Aguguo. With veteran leadership and experience, Aguguo won the triple jump event with her distance of 39-08.75 meters. She was the highest scorer for the Minutewomen and moved into second place in school history in the event. Aguguo also qualified for the Eastern Conference Athletic Conference championship with the win.

Senior Lisa Wilson improved on her school record in the shot put with a toss of 45-03.50 feet. That mark was good enough for fifth place. Freshman Nalis Mbianda was right behind Wilson with a mark of 43-09.75 feet, good enough for a seventh place finish.

Bakanowski and Courtney Baldwin also set all-time school marks in their events. Bakanowski now sits fourth in the record book for the 500-meter run, and Baldwin, in her first season, is fifth in the 1000-meter run.

UMass will travel to Roxbury, Mass. this weekend for the ECAC and IC4A Championship events which are scheduled to begin on Saturday.

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

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