The Massachusetts men’s and women’s track and field teams opened their seasons in Storrs, Conn. on Saturday at the UConn Invitational with third-place finishes and many athletes setting qualifying marks for the New England Championships.
The men had a solid showing, especially in the field events, with six New England Championship qualifiers and one Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America qualifier. The IC4A qualifier was senior thrower Chris Vercollone who led the Minutemen, winning the javelin throw with a distance of 196 feet, three inches, the fifth best mark in UMass school history. Sophomore Zachary Koncki had an excellent meet, winning the long jump event with a distance of 6.93 meters and taking third in the 110 meter hurdles as he qualified for the New England Championships in both events.
The distance squad dominated the 5,000 meter event with four runners finishing in the top seven. Senior Jason Ayr and junior Scott VanderMolen finished second and third while senior Sonny Gamble took fifth and sophomore Andrew Erwin finished seventh. Senior Brian Miller jumped his way to third place in the high jump event.
Sophomore David McKenna took seventh in the discus, throwing 149 feet, nine inches, good enough to qualify for New England Championships. Sean Busch also qualified, finishing sixth in the pole vault with a height of 14 feet, nine inches. Junior Sean Duncan finished second and qualified for New England Championships in the steeplechase with a time of nine minutes, 31.11 seconds. The Minutemen had three top 10 finishers in the 1,500 meter run with fifth, sixth, and seventh place finishes by senior Jonathan Pierce and juniors David Johnson and Zachary Gordon. In the 400 meter hurdles, sophomore Evan Donadt took sixth while freshman Nick Otis finished ninth in the event.
The Minutewomen had great success with senior thrower Lisa Wilson leading the way. Wilson finished fifth in the shot-put and discus throw and took fourth in the hammer throw, qualifying for the New England Championships in all three as well as qualifying for the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships in the hammer throw.
Freshman sensation Nicole Pompei had an incredible indoor season and continued her success to begin the outdoor season. Pompei won the pole vault event with a height of 11 feet, 5.75 inches, ranking her fourth all-time in UMass school history with the New England Championship qualifying vault.
Six other athletes qualified for the New England Championships. Senior Brittany Bakanowski finished third in the 400 meter hurdles with a time of one minute, 5.09 seconds. Freshman Courtney Baldwin placed second in the 1,500 meter run, an event which the Minutewomen dominated with five runners finishing in the top seven. Juniors Stephanie Aguguo took fifth in the triple jump, while Gina Perno qualified in the 800 meter run with a fourth-place finish. Rachelle Bourque threw for sixth place in the javelin throw as did Nalis Mbianda in the shot put event.
Both teams are back in action on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the UMass Track and Field Complex to host the UMass Nine-Way Meet.
Michael Counos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.