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UMass women’s track and field gets off to strong start

Alex Aritan / Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s track and field team has kicked off its 2013 indoor season in stellar fashion, having successful  performances in both of their meets so far.

In their most recent meet at the Sorlion Invitational in Rhode Island, the Minutewomen placed  second  out of eight teams, with host URI being only team to beat them out.

UMass coach Julie LaFreniere had high expectations for her squad coming into this season, so it came as no surprise that the team started off strong.

“The team just completed three weeks of double workouts during their January training. The staff is pleased with their work ethic and competitive mindsets” LaFreneire said.

UMass also had strong individual performances, highlighted by four New England qualifying results, as well as four first-place finishes.

The Minutewomen also showed the versatility and depth of their squad, by having two or more athletes score in nine of the events.

Senior Rebecca Banker continued her strong performance in the high jump as she placed first with a height of 5 feet, 3.75-inches. Based on Banker’s early-season performances, LaFreniere is confident that Banker is ready to take that jump to the next level.

UMass asserted its dominance in the triple jump, as sophomore Rebecca Stoyle took home first place honors with a New England qualifying distance of 38 feet, 6.75 inches. Runner-up to Stoyle in the triple jump was sophomore stand-out Ashley Palmer, with her distance of 36 feet, 6.25 inches.

Palmer also had other contributions throughout the meet, placing third in the long jump and eighth in the 60-meter dash.

Sarah Bitterman, fresh off of her semester in Germany, hit a New England qualifying performance in her first race back, running a solid time of 58.93 in the 400 meter.

LaFreniere believes her squad still has some NE qualifying performances left in them.

“Carly Zinner, Katie Powers, Erika Unger and Maria Marascia should all hit New England marks over the next three weeks in the 800-meter,” said LaFreniere. “While Michelle Jenssen and Andy Saccardo should do the same in the 400-meter and500-meter events.”

Minutewomen open well at URI

UMass made its presence known in the first meet of the season, as the team left the GoRhody Invitational at Rhode Island with three New England qualifiers and two first-place finishes.

Seniors Banker and Katherine Finnegan led the way for the Minutewomen, finishing first in both of their respective events.

Finnegan also qualified for the New England Championships with her distance of 18 feet, 3.75 inches in the long jump. Banker’s height of 5 feet, 5 inches in the high jump was good enough for fourth all-time in the program’s history, as well as her career best.

One of the stand-out performances of the evening was  Stoyle’s success in five of the events. Stoyle placed fourth in the triple jump, fifth in the long jump, fifth in the 400-meter dash, fifth in the 200-meter dash and third in the 4×400-meter relay.

With a strong start to the season under their belts, the Minutewomen fully expect to finish strong.

“We expect many more high-level performances over the next three weeks as we prepare for the Atlantic 10 Championships in February,”  LaFreniere said.

UMass hits the road on Friday to compete at the Joe Donahue Indoor Games event in Roxbury.

Joey Saade can be reached at and followed on Twitter @MDC_SAADE.

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