Regular season nearing an end for Track and Field

By Jeffrey Okerman

Alex Aritan/Collegian

With the collegiate track and field regular season quickly coming to a close, teams are beginning to prepare for their conference and regional meets. With those meets in mind, the Massachusetts men’s track and field team traveled to Princeton, N.J., for the Larry Ellis Invitational.

Having stressed the importance of meets with a larger field, UMass men’s coach Ken O’Brien was hoping for a much greater response from his runners.

“We did have some seasonal best performances,” said O’Brien. “But they were marginal improvements. I explained to the team afterwards that I wasn’t really disappointed, just that we would have improvements at a bigger level.”

Daniel Wu, a senior longer jumper, however, did take a leap forward. With a career-best jump of 23-07.50, Wu climbed to fourth all-time in the outdoor record books at UMass. The jump vaulted Wu up to sixth place in the event.

“Dan Wu obviously responded [to the big competition],” said O’Brien. “Being from New Jersey, and having jumped there before, Dan responded pretty well, because he is a senior, a competitor, and also has some familiarity with it.”

Another member of the team who took a big step in the right direction was sophomore Anthony Taylor. The three-season runner finished the 1500 meter with a 3:57.44 time, an improvement of 4.52 seconds from his previous best in the event. The was good enough for 16th place.

However, trailing Taylor were Jared Reddy (3:58.39, 22nd), Patrick McGowan (3:59.15, 27th) and Michael Giardina (4:02.20, 37th). The trio failed to better times they had previously posted this season, however, O’Brien was no concerned.

“We’re going to split those 1,500 guys up and put them into events not only where they’re good, but where it might show we can grab some top spots,” said O’Brien. “We’re just going to try and split the milers to make more of an impact on the team.”

Also at the event, 400-meter dash specialist Paul Grafov also competed in a stacked field, and ran a 49.36 and finished in 27th place.  The time was a season best for him and he qualified for the New England Championships. Grafov also helped teammates Aaron Araujo, Evan Donadt and Zachary Hildenbrandt to the fastest 4×400 time of the season, 3:19.31, a mark good enough to qualify for the NEC.

Quinn Ryder joined his teammates as a NEC qualifier, with an 11.04 second 100-meter dash time. Ryder had been hovering around the 11.25 time all season, and made his breakthrough while running into a strong head wind, enhancing an already impressive performance.

With the A-10 meet in sight, O’Brien now turns his focus to putting his team in the best position to score vital points.

“We have a handful of pretty good scoring places,” said O’Brien. “But we’ve got two handfuls of not so good scoring places, and hopefully in the next two weeks we can make those not so good scoring places disappear and be in good scoring places.”

Minutewomen second at HC

The UMass women’s track and field squad recorded another strong result, and placed second out of seven competing teams in the Holy Cross Invitational. Holy Cross, was the easy winners with 224 points, to the Minutewomen’s 138.

UMass took first in both the long and triple jump events. Ashley Palmer recorded her first, first place jump, with a leap of 17-08.25. The jump was a season best, after starting the season all the way down at 16-02.50. In the triple, Courtney Kromko hopped, skipped and jumped her way to 10 points with a 35-06.75, also a season best.

The Minutewomen also continued to flex their muscles in the throwing events, taking first in the javelin throw and shot put, third in the discus and a fifth in the hammer throw.

Nalis Mbianda teamed up with Rachelle Bourque to go one-two in the shot put, as they have done all season long. Mbianda’s toss of 44-00.50 secured 10 points, while Bourque’s 41-06.50 mark collected eight.

Bourque took the 10 points in the javelin throw, but her throw of 128-07 was much shorter than her other attempts this season. With the conference meet in sight, and having already qualified for the NEC, Bourque will need to improve in order to secure crucial field event points for the Minutewomen.

On the track, Rachel Hilliard posted a season best mark in the 1500 meters, at 4:46.46. The freshman took third in the meet, and, with consistent drops in her time, looks poised to qualify for the NEC meet with two meets in hand.

Another impressive freshman performer, Meghan Landry, shaved another second off her season best, to post a 59.14 second, 400-meter dash. The freshman is also on the brink of qualifying for New England’s, having to meet a 59.00 standard.

Both men’s and women’s teams now look forward to the Pre-Conference meet hosted by New Hampshire, in Durham, N.H, this upcoming weekend.

Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.