Michael Cyphers reaches new heights at New England Championships

By Jesse Mayfield Sheehan

Freshman pole-vaulter Michael Cyphers said he was expecting a big jump at last weekend’s New England Championships.

And that’s exactly what he did, vaulting 15 feet, 11 inches for the Massachusetts men’s track and field team to beat his personal record and qualify for the IC4A Championships.

Cyphers’ vault earned him a tie for second place in the event and helped the Minutemen to a 13th place finish out of 32 competing teams.

Cyphers said that although he did not feel his best coming into the meet, the heightened competition gave him the boost he needed to perform.

“I definitely think that the boosted competition really helped,” he said. “There’s a lot of big competitors there, and I knew coming into it I was probably the youngest competitor competing, and that always gives me an extra boost.”

Cyphers’ mark was the second-best in school history, and just two inches shy of the school record. He had a chance to beat it by vaulting 16 feet, 5 inches (the event was going by a progression of six inches), and almost cleared it, but his elbow knocked over the bar.

Cyphers will have one last shot to break the record this weekend, and said he will definitely take a shot at it.

“Depending on what the progression is and how things are going that day, I definitely think that I’ll have a shot, but you never really know how things are going to go,” Cyphers said.

UMass coach Ken O’Brien said Cyphers has been doing great things for the team this season.

“I think (Cyphers) has been probably our more outstanding performer in the entire season,” O’Brien said. “As a team, we’re very lucky to have that fall on the shoulders of a freshman because I think that motivates not only people in his event, but also people on the team who are in other events.”

Continuing to provide the second of the team’s one-two punch in the pole vault was Gregory Copeland, who tied for sixth place in the event with a height of 14 feet, 11 inches.

The Minutemen also got two scores in the 1,000-meter run, with Thomas Mullen and Michael McNaughton finishing in fourth and sixth place, respectively, with times of 2 minutes, 26.41 seconds and 2 minutes, 33.15 seconds. Mullen’s time was good for fourth-best in team history and qualified him for this weekend’s IC4As.

Rounding out the scoring for UMass was Quinn Ryder, who finished in eighth place in the 60-meter dash at 7.07 seconds.

The 4×800-meter and distance medley relay squads just missed scoring for the Minutemen, both coming in at ninth place. However, both turned in IC4A qualifying times, with the 4×800-meter squad combining for a time of 7:42.96 and the distance medley squad combining for 9:59.28.

The 4×400-meter relay squad missed qualifying for the IC4As by nine-hundredths of a second, finishing at 3:19.99.

After finishing in the bottom half at the Atlantic 10 Championship, O’Brien was pleased with how the team performed last weekend.

“I think our team reacted much more positively this weekend, and I think we were a little sluggish last weekend,” O’Brien said. “So, not only was our placing better, which made me happier, but also I think across the board the team responded better. Maybe gaining some experience from the first championship meet helped.”

UMass will close out its indoor season at the IC4A Championship in Boston, where it will be competing against 89 other Division I track and field teams. The team will be sending the two relay squads, Cyphers, Mullen, Benjamin Groleau (mile run) and Antony Taylor (mile run and 3,000-meter run) to compete in the meet.

The two-day event is set to start Friday at 10 a.m.

Jesse Mayfield-Sheehan can be reached at [email protected] and can be followed on Twitter at @jgms88.