With a week to go until the Atlantic 10 Championship, the stakes are high in Boston’s annual Valentine Invitational on Feb. 12. This two-day meet is the last opportunity for the Massachusetts track and field teams to train and prepare for the championship meets which are rapidly approaching.
The men’s team is coming off the two-day Giegengack Invitational last week in New Haven, Conn. In the event, the Minutemen qualified for the Eastern College Athletic Championship in two events. The distance medley team, consisting of Josh Boone, Joseph Doyle, Scott VanderMolen and Jonathon Pierce, placed fifth and qualified with their time of 10 minutes, 4.74 seconds. That mark was also the best time recorded by the Minutemen in the distance medley this season.
Also qualifying for UMass last weekend was jumper Daniel Wu. The sophomore took first place in the long-jump event and set a personal best with his mark of 22 feet, 6.25 inches.
Men’s coach Ken O’Brien said that while this weekend is certainly important, it also offers a chance to prepare and try different athletes in their second or third best events.
“At this point in the season we’ve evaluated and we pretty much know where we expect people to place,” O’Brien said. “Now we start polishing up on second and third events and refining our skills even more. Things are going to pick up now and we have to be ready for that. I think the guys are doing a great job of preparing so far.”
The Minutemen will travel to Boston with 15 members qualified for the New England Championship and five members preparing to compete in the ECAC Championship. O’Brien says that although he is happy with his team’s progress this season, he expects them to step up even more in the coming weeks.
“We have to be on top of our game,” O’Brien said. “After this week there is no room for error.”
The Minutewomen are also in competition this weekend as they will travel to Boston and compete in the same Valentine Invitational.
In New Haven, Conn. last weekend it was the distance medley relay team that took center stage. The squad, which consisted of Karen Roa, Gina Perno, Courtney Baldwin and Micelle Jenssen set a UMass record and won the event with their time of 11:49.3.
With the win, the team went up in the distance medley standings and now ranks first in the A-10.
Standing out even more among that relay group was Michelle Jenssen. Competing in more than just the distance medley relay, Jenssen placed in three separate events including the distance medley, 4×400-meter relay and the 400-meter run.
This versatility and success earned her the A-10 Rookie Performance of the Week, the first of her career. This is the third consecutive week that a UMass athlete received the award.
Consistent performances from the freshmen on the team also helped stabilize the Minutewomen this season, and that depth is something that will pay dividends in the A-10 tournament and beyond.
With three school records and five top five all-time marks already recorded this season, UMass has been quite successful thus far, and will look to continue that success this weekend in Boston.
Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]