UMass begins spring season

By Michael Wood

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The Massachusetts track and field teams are eager to get back into a routine as they prepare for the first meet of the outdoor season, the UConn Invitational.

Both teams will travel to Connecticut this Saturday as they kick off their spring seasons. They enjoyed a lengthy four-week pause in their season, with their last meet coming on March 7.

Home course advantage

As it does each year, UMass will host outdoor meets here in Amherst. The teams do not schedule any indoor events on campus during the winter because there are no official facilities which may be used for indoor competition. However, this spring, UMass will host the Nine-Way Meet in two weeks in addition to the Atlantic 10 championship meet a few weeks later. The A-10 championship is a meet that UMass hosts every other year, alternating with Charlotte.

UMass coach Ken O’Brien said that it is a privilege to host any meet, particularly one with such implications, and that his team is excited to compete in front of a home crowd after traveling to surrounding schools all winter.

“There’s nothing like a home course,” O’Brien said. “We’ve found that it applies to our sport as much as any other sport. The guys always say that competing at home lifts their performances and makes them feel like fans are excited by their performances. With A-10’s here this year, we’ll see some great crowds and we can’t wait to impress them.”

New season, new faces

When UMass hits the track this weekend, there will be some new faces to competition on both teams.

With the addition or more outdoor events, both teams have a need for additional athletes than the indoor season. UMass will add competitors in events such as the javelin throw, discus throw, steeplechase and 10,000-meter distance run. These newcomers are mostly veterans who compete solely in the spring season, but there will be handful that are not as seasoned as their peers.

O’Brien said that his new athletes will be expected to contribute as much as anyone else and that they will be called upon frequently to help the team win points in competition.

“Our javelin and discus throwers along with our 10,000-meter runners are ready to go,” said O’Brien. “They’re new additions to the team for the spring, although most of them are veterans. We expect them to contribute a lot, like they have in the past couple of years.”

Crossing the finish line

UMass finished well in both the men’s and women’s indoor seasons, and it looks to continue building on that promising start this spring.

The Minutewomen captured a higher overall finish in the Eastern College Athletic Conference championship than the men did in the IC4A championship meet, finishing in 39th place in the final event of the indoor season.

UMass relied on a health mix of veteran leadership and freshman talent while competing indoors throughout the winter, mixing in a few record-breaking performances along the way. Senior thrower Lisa Wilson set a school record in the weight throw, breaking her own personal record three times in the process. Her mark of 55-015.5 meters came during the Great Dane Invitational back in January.

She also set a school record in the shot put event at the New England championship with a mark of 45-03.5 meters.

On the men’s side, the indoor season wrapped up on a bit of a low note, with the Minutemen taking 47th place in the IC4A championship. Yet, despite the outcome of the event, O’Brien said that he was very pleased with his team’s performance indoors, and that they showed they can compete with the best athletes in the country.    

“The guys did very, very well over the winter,” O’Brien said. “It’s tough being inside in a primarily outdoor sport, and they were spectacular. Now they’ve had some time off to decompress a little, and they’re as eager as I am to get back out there and do it again this spring.”

Leading the charge for the Minutemen in the first half of their season were the veteran upperclassmen. Senior Tyler Cotto and junior Sean Busch were two of the team’s top performers all season long, and they look poised to improve upon their own marks this spring. Cotto came away as a New England champion after he won his signature event, the 55-meter hurdles, at the NEC’s in late February.

Busch, UMass’ best pole vaulter and a school record holder, was able to best his own record in the IC4A championship and now sits tied for first place in UMass history with his height of 15-09.00 feet.

Both teams will kick-off the spring outdoor season with the one day UConn Invitational meet on Saturday.

Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]