UMass makes mark at NEC over weekend

By Eric Mansfield

The Massachusetts men’s and women’s track and field teams came away with sixth and fifth-place finishes, respectively, this past weekend at the New England Championships in Boston, Mass.

Both teams recieved strong performances in the two-day meet, highlighted by senior Tyler Cotto in the 60-meter hurdles, junior Zachary Koncki in the long jump and Gina Perno and Stephanie Aguguo in the 1,000-meters and triple jump.

Cotto came into the meet having already been crowned the New England Championship champion in the same event last year. Cotto recorded a season-best time of 7.87 seconds, which depending upon other performances around the country, may be good enough to qualify him for the NCAA Indoor Championships.

“[Cotto] just blew the race open,” UMass men’s coach Ken O’Brien said. “He just ran a great race.”

O’Brien went on to say that Cotto went into the race as the second-seeded runner and was going up against a few athletes he had been competing against all year. The runners had taken turns beating each other throughout the season, with Cotto coming out on top in the final heat on Saturday. Just behind Cotto was Sacred Heart’s Bertony Jean-Louis, finishing with a time of 7.89.

O’Brien said that in the last two championship meets, the long jump, one of the earlier events in the program, has consisted of a solid one-two punch in junior Daniel Wu and Zachary Koncki. This year, Wu finished fourth in the event.

“When you get a start like that it really takes the pressure off the rest of the team,” O’Brien said. “It sets the rest of the team at ease.”

In the 4×800 relay, the Minutemen got significant performances out of three seniors, as Scott VanderMolen, Joseph Doyle and Sean Duncan finished second behind only Central Connecticut State.

Another member who had a strong outing was freshman Tom Mullen, who O’Brien said needed to have a superior performance. Mullen came through in the clutch, finishing with the second-fastest split of the afternoon at one minute, 54 seconds.

“It’s not that you don’t know what to expect, you know, you’ve got three veterans and a rookie, but you just hope all four come through,” O’Brien said.

The 4×400 relay team comprised of Aaron Araujo, Michael McDonough, Nick Otis and Paul Grafov finished ninth with a time of 3:20.76.

Grafov also took 10th place in the 500-meter dash with a time of 1:05.41.

O’Brien said that the sixth-place finish was about what he had anticipated for his team.

On the women’s side, two athletes had second-place finishes. Perno tied the second-best all-time mark for UMass in the 1,000-meter race with a time of 2:51.47. Aguguo had a triple jump of 39-05.00; 10.25 inches shy of her best mark, which already stands as second-best all-time in school history.

The Minutewomen also received strong contributions from Michelle Jenssen and Deanna Julian, who with their performances in the 500-meter dash, both now hold two of the top five times in school history. Jenssen took fifth place with a time of 1:15.65 and Julian took sixth in 1:15.70.

“Friday was a rough day for all of this,” Julian said. “The next day, great competition and we just really performed.”

Another top performance for the Minutewomen was Karen Roa’s third-place finish in the 3,000-meter run. The junior finished in 9:49.38, good enough for fourth-best all-time in UMass history.

Perno said that the last couple of weeks have a taken a substantial physical toll on the athletes and the team will be “easing it up” in preparation for the Eastern College Athletic Conference meet, which will be held next week in Roxbury, Mass.

Last week’s “[Atlantic 10’s] was definitely the roughest meet of the year,” Perno said.

The men will also travel to Roxbury for the IC4A meet. Each team will send the athletes who have previously qualified for competition.

Eric Mansfield can be reached at [email protected]