Minutewomen excel despite injuries, Minutemen gain experience

By Nick Souza

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(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

The still-depleted Massachusetts women’s track and field team managed to take fifth at the New England Regional Championships in a field of 35 teams. Northeastern University took home gold in both the men’s and women’s championship.

The women’s team entered the meet at an immediate disadvantage in the field events as Becky Stoyle missed the event due to injury and Courtney Kromko – who won Most Outstanding Field Event in the Atlantic 10 Conference Championships less than a week ago – was limited to one event.

Despite the hole left in the field events, the team put up 52 points, giving them a top-five finish. According to UMass coach Julie LaFreniere, injuries aren’t uncommon after athletes compete in multiple back-to-back meets.

“A lot of athletes shine in A-10s and sacrifice their bodies and as a result they get to New Englands pretty banged up,” LaFreniere said. “But overall I’m happy with the performances, especially against competition this stiff.”

At a meet that included teams from several different conferences and all three divisions in college track and field, the Minutewomen still put up several strong performances.

The distance medley relay team comprised of Rachel Hilliard, Heather MacLean, Krista Webb and Carly Zinner took second with a time of 11:38.98, breaking the old school record of 11:49.37 set in 2010.

The team was beat out in the last leg of the relay by Maryann Gong of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a performance that even impressed LaFreniere.

“After the race I went over and shook her hand – we had a lead going into the last leg and she steadily closed the gap and it wasn’t because our runner was going slow,” LaFreniere said.

In the field events, Ashley Palmer attempted to replace Stoyle and Kromko, finishing first in the long jump and fifth in the triple jump. Kromko finished fourth in the long jump in the one event she participated in.

Hilliard stood out on the track, coming within .2 seconds of setting a New England Championship meet record with a first place finish of 2:07:24. She also finished second in the mile with a time of 4:55.

Minutemen take another step forward

The men’s team entered the meet with a slightly different frame of mind than the women’s team.

UMass coach Ken O’Brien’s plan heading into the meet didn’t focus on the final score as much as the on-track performances. His team finished 20th overall but managed to squeeze out 11 points in a deep 32-team field.

“We’re a pretty young team that needed experience at a big championship meet,” O’Brien said. “We had a mixture of juniors and sophomores for the most part running over the weekend”.

The distance medley relay team, comprised of Michael McNaughton, Patrick Farnham, Stephen Ness and Cory Thomas, broke a 40-year program record with a time of 9:51.42, earning them a fourth-place finish.

The Minutemen also benefited from the 4×800 relay team of Ben Groleau, Alex Finestone, McNaughton and Ness, which also finished fourth. In the Heptathlon, senior Greg Copeland finished in eighth place with a score of 4,566 points.

Both the UMass men’s and women’s teams are looking ahead to the ECAC championships next weekend. However, both teams feel the need to step back this week with the indoor season winding down and the athletes coming off of a difficult back-to-back meets.

“There’s good momentum going into the spring now and with the performances the indoor athletes are putting on, it raises the pressure and urgency for the athletes waiting for the outdoor season to come around,” O’Brien said.

“We have to rest now. They’ve done everything they could to this point and we’re pleased with their performances,” LaFreniere said. “It’s back off time now.”

Nick Souza can be reached at [email protected]