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UMass closes season at UNH

The Massachusetts track and field teams are set for the final regular season meet this weekend in Durham, N.H. for the New Hampshire Pre-Conference Meet. The event will be held at UNH, as many UMass athletes look to qualify for the New England Championships before the next weekend’s Atlantic 10 Conference Championships.

The Minutemen are coming off a meet where they qualified several athletes for the postseason. After competing with some of the nation’s best teams, UMass men’s coach Ken O’Brien believes that his team is in the right mindset.

“We have had a consistent year of training and an enthusiastic group of kids, looking to succeed,” O’Brien said.

One of the keys to the success of both squads is their well-balanced distribution of talent. Another key to the success of UMass is its leadership. A talented group of seniors leads the way for the Minutemen. In the 3,000 meter steeplechase event, both Sonny Gamble and Sean Duncan shared success, as both have qualified for New England Championships.

Chris Vercollone leads the way for the men’s throwing squad in the javelin with a top-five mark in UMass school history as well as Lisa Wilson who is the dominant force of the women’s throwing unit.

The distance team features Jonathan Pierce, Jason Ayr, Nicolai Naranjo and Andrew McCann.

“I would say that the seniors carry more than 50 percent of the weight of the team, but the more important thing is their great ability to motivate the underclassmen and push them to do their best,” O’Brien said.

Freshman thrower Nalis Mbianda for the women looks to be Wilson’s apprentice. Mbianda currently holds the third best mark in the shot-put in UMass school history. Wilson holds the best mark in school history, with a mark of 45-05.75. For the men, freshmen Joe Doyle and Nick Otis had solid indoor seasons and are expected to be a factor in the outdoor season as well.

Some of the team’s top athletes have been sidelined due to injuries. Tyler Cotto, who was the leading hurdler in indoor, suffered a hamstring pull, but is expected to compete and is looking to qualify for New England Championships. Mid-distance competitor Ryan DiOrio and long jumper Dan Woo will look to qualify as well as throwers Kevin Spieler and Dave McKenna.

The action begins in Durham on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. The Minutemen will return to compete in the Atlantic 10 Championships the following weekend at the UMass track and field complex.

Michael Counos can be reached at mcounos@student.umass.edu.

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