Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Track teams head to Boston for Valentine Invitational

Courtesy UMass Athletics
Courtesy UMass Athletics

The Massachusetts men’s and women’s track teams will head in the same direction Friday, as both will compete in the Valentine Invitational in Boston, Mass. at 1 p.m. However, the teams’ competitive directions have differed slightly over the last week, a fact that will have a significant impact on both squads.

Right now, men’s head coach Ken O’Brien believes his team to be in mid-season form.

“I think the last couple of weeks they’ve shown that they can feel themselves approaching a little better level of competitive experience [and] ability,” O’Brien said.

Not only has O’Brien seen improvement with the team’s level of performance and competitiveness, but in his athletes’ confidence levels as well.

“Not only is it happening physically, but there’s a mental or emotional increase in confidence and enthusiasm,” O’Brien said. “Earlier times you’re working hard and the increases in enthusiasm sometimes are a little bit blunted because you’re working hard and haven’t had that much improvement. All of a sudden you start to feel the ball rolling.”

O’Brien said he and the coaching staff will be looking to narrow down what events certain athletes will be competing in during upcoming meets. Many of the athletes at the beginning of the season compete in multiple events to see where their strengths lie. The coaching staff now feel it is a matter of getting the athletes ready for a single event.

O’Brien has seen the most improvement in field events. Seniors Sean Busch and Kevin Spieler have been impressive with the pole vault and throws, while juniors Daniel Wu and Zach Koncki have also been consistent top five finishers in the long jump.

Surprising the coaches have been a group of 500 meter runners. Sophomores Paul Grafov, Joe Doyle, Nick Otis and juniors Michael McDonough and Evan Donadt have all qualified for the New England Championship meet and could prove useful for the relays. According to O’Brien, all of them can run the 800 meters, as well.

It is unknown exactly what teams will be competing in Boston, but it is likely to be crowded with an estimate of 75 teams participating. O’Brien said that he’s seen a large variety of teams show up in years past, including Florida State, Georgetown and Duke.

Julie LaFreniere, head coach of the women’s team, said that while the team has been getting solid performances out of their athletes, several of them have recently fell ill. This will change their preparation for the meet on Friday.

“For the healthy athletes we are trying to cut it back and focus on just sharpening up,” LaFreniere said. “Last week, some of the athletes might’ve done three events over a two-day period. Now we’re going to just do one or two [events].”

Despite their poor health, the athlete’s willingness to improve hasn’t dwindled.

“They’re begging to come back to practice,” LaFreniere said.

Wednesday’s practice will have given LaFreniere a better idea of who will be travelling to the meet.

LaFreniere acknowledged it is not unusual to see several athletes get sick at this point in the season but also said illness was something they will have to adjust to. It will become even more important to adjust while getting closer to the Conference Championships, where some athletes will have to compete in four races over the course of two days.

Both the men’s and women’s team are expecting Friday’s meet at BU, which features a fast track, to be a good test for upcoming meets.

Eric Mansfield can be reached at [email protected].

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