Track & field resumes with Yellow Jacket Invitational

By Jeffrey Okerman

Courtesy UMass Athletics
Courtesy UMass Athletics

Both Massachusetts men’s and women’s track and field teams will open its respective spring seasons this Saturday in Springfield, where American International College hosts its annual Yellow Jacket Invitational.

The Invite is the first of four meets leading up to the Atlantic 10 championships, which are hosted at UMass during the first week of May.

Traditionally, the Yellow Jacket Invite has not always been a meet in which the Minutemen and Minutewomen put out a full strength squad, but UMass has still found success. The Minutemen came away with first place in 2011, while the Minutewomen claimed second.

This season’s initial outdoor meet is expected to be accompanied with comfortable running weather, with a high of 64 degrees over the weekend.

On the men side, the meet’s top collegiate thrower from last year, Kevin Spieler, helped the Minutemen to the top spot with three, first-place finishes in the shot put, discus and hammer throw, but has since graduated. However, David McKenna will be looking to step up to fill the open space. The then-junior claimed second in the discus and third in the hammer throw to contribute 14 points to the cause last year.

UMass’s sole member of the indoor A-10 Academic All-Conference team, Daniel Wu, collected 11 points last year, with a win in the long jump, and an eighth place finish in the 200 meter dash.

The change in seasons also comes with a change in events, with the 400 meter hurdles being introduced. Sophomore Aaron Araujo was used predominantly in the 400 meter dash in the winter season, topping out at 48.86 seconds. As a freshman, he claimed second in the 400 meter hurdles race at the Yellow Jacket Invite.

Redshirt senior Patrick McAllister took first place in the 5000 meter run in 2011, and could use this meet as a stepping stone following a pair of frustrating seasons. The Framingham native missed a large portion of the cross country season because of injury and competed in three indoor meets.

Junior Paul Grafov also has experience in this meet, as he picked up third place in the 400 meter dash in 2011.

The Minutewomen have lost a number of last season’s point-getters from the Yellow Jacket Invite. Gina Perno, who collected 10 points from her first-place finish in the 1500 meter run and triple jump winner Stephanie Aguguo have graduated. Jenelle Denehy won first in the pole vault and has also since graduated.

However, Kaylee DeVincent who put in a solid performance in last season’s meet, returns coming off a solid indoor season. The junior collected two third place finishes and a fourth place finish in the field events last year.

Also returning for the UMass women is the entirety of a 4×400 relay team that claimed second at this meet last year. The team consisting of Meghan Leahy, Deanna Julian, Michelle Jenssen and Erika Unger crossed the line in 4:07.34, while Julian and Jenssen both finished second in their individual events.

Both of these teams are considerably younger than they were in previous seasons, as freshman and sophomores highly outnumber their upperclassman teammates. This meet could be seen as an opportunity for some of the younger, less experienced, members of the team to compete and assert their positions to prepare for the UMass Invitational, which will take place on April 14.

The Yellow Jacket Invitational takes place on Saturday and will go on all day in Springfield.

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