Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Men’s, women’s track teams prepare for A-10s

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(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

After wrapping up their regular seasons, the Massachusetts men and women’s track teams will travel to Fairfax, Virginia, this weekend for the Atlantic 10 championship. Both teams are entering this meet with confidence built up over the past few weeks of successful performances by many of their athletes, and coaches of both teams expressed a level of excitement looking forward to the A-10s.

“I’m very excited about the competitive enthusiasm and instinct that the team has demonstrated over the past few weeks, and I can’t wait to see it down at A-10s,” men’s coach Ken O’Brien said.

“We were top five in the indoor season without some of our best athletes, and we were only 20 points from being second place, so I’m excited to go down there and compete for second, third and fourth again,” women’s coach Julie LaFreniere added.

After performing well all season without top point scorers like Rebecca Stoyle, the Minutewomen believe they could finish as high as second place. However, the goal for the women’s side according to LaFreniere is to finish in the top five again. The team has the advantage of senior experience on their side heading into the meet with a strong senior class.

“Sometimes senior athletes can want to perform well so badly that it can sometimes get in the way of their performances, but for the most part our seniors step up to these kind of meets,” LaFreniere said.

While rankings are usually not the best predictors to how a championship meet will turn out, they can give insight on how a team will stack up against its competition. The Minutewomen have many athletes ranked near the top of multiple events who can potentially grab big points for the team.

It starts with three seniors who will be competing in the long and triple jump. Courtney Kromko, Ashley Palmer and Rebecca Stoyle will all be expected to finish near the top of either event.

In addition to the jumps, UMass could also produce points in the field events from their throws. Emma Robinson is currently ranked at the top of the javelin throw. The team will also be looking for Margaret Riseborough and Sara Wagner to come through in the shot put and hammer.

On the track, the team will be looking toward a slightly younger group of athletes. Heather MacLean will be running the 800-meter dash, an event she has a strong chance to finish first in. However, MacLean has been battling through persistent calf tightness as of late.

“She was originally going to run the 1500 as well, but I’m a little worried about her calf. Hopefully as she matures these little wear and tear injuries will become less of a problem for her,” LaFreniere said.

The team will also be looking for freshmen Colleen Sands to deliver points in the steeplechase. Despite her youth Sands has displayed the toughness needed to compete in such a demanding race.

Finally, there will be a highly contested 1500-meter race where senior Rachel Hilliard will counted on to finish well. Carly Zinner will also be entered in the race for UMass.

Minutemen Spread Their Talent Out

The Minutemen will use depth across many events to try to score most of their points on Saturday and Sunday.

“For the most part we have just about every event covered, we’re a little thin or weak in a few areas, but we’ll still have athletes competing in those areas with little room for error,” O’Brien explained.

The Minutemen have similar goals as the Minutewomen – they believe finishing in the top five is a very real possibility.

“I think we’ll surprise some people with how much we score and where we score during the meet,” O’Brien said.

The roster UMass will field has almost 20 athletes ranked between fourth and tenth in their respective events. This means the team has potential to score in the top eight in most events.

Another major characteristic of the Minutemen is their youth. The team is only sending four seniors to Fairfax. This makes intangible and emotional aspects of the meet a slightly bigger factor.

“Momentum is always big in meets like this regardless of the composition of the team, but with a young team it’s a little bigger and it has a slightly larger effect on the athlete’s psyche,” O’Brien explained.

Both teams have similar goals and expectations, but differ on how to achieve them. For the women’s team, this will be the start of a last hurrah for a very talented senior class. For the men, this could be their message to the rest of the conference that they are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Nicholas Souza can be reached at [email protected]

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