The Massachusetts men’s track and field team kicked off its outdoor season at the two-day Sam Howell Invitational on April 1.
Coming off stellar performances from multiple athletes in the indoor season, UMass coach Ken O’Brien looked to carry that momentum into the seven-meet outdoor season, running through the IC4A Championships.
On Day 1 of the Princeton-hosted event, the long-distance brothers’ tandem of Kevin and David Johnson paved the way for the Minutemen, recording nearly identical times in the 10,000-meter run. David landed a third-place finish with a time of 30:17.07, while Kevin finished 0:00.77 later in fifth place at 30:17.84. Despite the twins taking the indoor season off, their times ran two seconds off the pace of UMass records for the event. Both runners will compete in the IC4A Championships with qualifying times.
Senior Sean Duncan placed ninth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:12.09, good enough to give UMass its third qualifier in IC4A. Runners Daniel Barry and Patrick McGowan finished in 29th and 45th, respectively, in the 5,000-meter run.
The Minutemen, who were originally scheduled to compete in Day 2 of the Sam Howell Invitational on Saturday, had a change of plans in regards to where they would compete. Fortunately for them, that change paid off.
UMass placed first in the Yellow Jacket Invitational at American International in Springfield, Mass. The Minutemen tallied 175 points in a complete-team effort, holding off the competition in a seven-team field, which included the likes of Amherst College, Holy Cross and Bentley.
Just as in the Sam Howell Invitational, O’Brien saw solid individual performances from multiple athletes, specifically in the throwing-style events. Upperclassmen Kevin Spieler and David McKenna led the charge. Of Spieler’s three events, he notched two second-place and one third-place finish.
His mark of 170-02 in the hammer throw was good enough for second in the event and fifth best in UMass history. McKenna posted similar performances, coming one spot behind Spieler at fourth in the discus with a mark of 131-09 and fifth in the hammer throw with a mark of 147-11.
Hurdler Tyler Cotto and freshman sprinter Quinn Ryder added strong performances in their respective events to give the Minuteman two more qualifiers in the IC4A Championships. Cotto ran an impressive 14.78 time, placing first in the 110-meter hurdles while Ryder crossed the line in second with a mark of 10.82.
To continue the theme of strong individual performances, Joe Doyle and Patrick McAllister each placed first in their respective events, the 800 and 5,000-meter runs. Freshman Tom Mullen finished behind Doyle to take second place with a time of 1:57.27.
Daniel Wu and Sean Busch rounded out the field events for UMass. The former placed third in the long jump and the latter finished second in the pole vault.
The 4×100 relay team placed second, led by the freshman twin duo of Ted and Chris Greene. The latter of the two ran alongside and placed right behind teammate Paul Grafov at fourth in the 400-meter dash, which was 00.16 behind Grafov’s third-place finish. Freshman hurdler Aaron Araujo added a second-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles, ending a solid day for the Minutemen.
UMass will return to action when it competes in the first of two-straight home meets this weekend at the UMass Invitational. The Minutemen will look to pick up where they left off last weekend, building on a first-place finish at the Yellow Jacket Invitational.
UMass will attempt to top its second-place finish at last year’s UMass Invitational. The slew of 18 seniors will try to lead the outdoor campaign for the Minutemen. The invitational marks the first time a UMass track and field event will be televised in the program’s history.
Assistant coach David Jackson and three competitors will be traveling to the Husky Decathlon Invitational this Thursday and Friday.
Matt Strong can be reached at email@example.com.