Outdoor season generates excitement for men’s, women’s track and field

By Nick Souza

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On April 12th UMass Amherst hosted the Minuteman Invitational as well as the UMass senior day for Track & Field. (Cade Belisle/Flickr)

On April 12th UMass Amherst hosted the Minuteman Invitational as well as the UMass senior day for Track & Field. (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

As the snow melts and spring begins, the Massachusetts men and women’s track teams prepare for another outdoor season.

Both teams are coming out of the indoor season with something to prove to the rest of the Atlantic 10 Conference after a string of injuries and inconsistent performances concluded the winter season. Both teams have a limited number of meets to make strides before the season ends.

For the Minutemen, the end to the winter season can be viewed as a positive.

“Finishing fourth at the Atlantic 10 Conference meet without some of our best athletes available was impressive for us,” UMass coach Julie LaFreniere said.

It’s no secret that the women’s team faced a slew of injuries and illnesses throughout the indoor season, but it never harped on them as an excuse. Jumpers Becky Stoyle and Courtney Kromko are slated to return in the next couple of weeks after injuries sustained at the end of the indoor season, reviving the UMass field events with point-scorers.

Also, mid-distance events and relays will have the return of seniors Katie Powers and Courtney Neves who the team missed for almost the entirety of the indoor season.

“Kromko is doing fine, and Stoyle will be ready by next weekend,” said field events coach David Jackson. “Most importantly, they’ll be ready when we need them at the end of the season.”

There is a short window in which the team can refocus themselves and get back to the day-to-day grind of an athlete, as the team has just under a month between the conclusion of the indoor season and the beginning of the outdoor season. But LaFreniere is still confident.

“I’m very pleased with how the team has responded to the workouts early in the season,” she said, “and I’m happy with our collective mindset as well.”

The biggest Achilles heel for the Minutewomen going into the season will be the lack of depth in the sprinting and short hurdle events. While Ashley Palmer, Brittany Green and Meghan Patrolia will be capable of running well in these events, they will compete against programs that simply have more athletes to plug in those events with the ability to score.

Yet LaFreniere still anticipates her team vying for a top five spot within the conference.

“I love my team, they work hard, and they take themselves and each other seriously,” Lafreniere said. “They’re committed to getting better.”

Minutemen marching forward

The men’s team spent its indoor season making gains that weren’t necessarily seen on the scorecards, as it developed a team comprised mostly of sophomores and juniors.

Now that the younger runners have another season under their belt and are more comfortable with the events they are running, they must be ready to take the next step.

“Young teams have different goals in mind,” UMass coach Ken O’Brien said. “But now that they’ve had a chance to become more comfortable with competition, it’s time to set higher and more tangible goals.”

To make matters more difficult, the team has 16 new athletes on its outdoor roster which were not on the indoor roster. The two separate seasons are also separate sports with different events available, and the spring season offers more events.

This forces teams to hold several athletes on the team when there are only a few roster spots because some may compete indoors while others compete outdoors.

“The amount of events in the spring spreads teams out,” Jackson said. “And it allows us to match up a little bit better and gives us more opportunities to score points.”

For the outdoor season, much like indoors, one of the team’s biggest strengths will be in the multi-events (decathlon) with sophomores Adam Bonfilio, Kris Horn and junior Nick Ingham all expected to perform well this season. In sprints and hurdles, UMass will look toward senior Peter Farlow, junior Zack Grube and freshman Logan Cotto to be point scorers.

Also, distance and field event scoring will lead by upperclassmen Michael McNaughton, Ben Groleau and Greg Copeland. Like the women’s team, many of the male runners, jumpers and throwers have looked good in practice thus far, but this is only the start.

“They all look good so far in practice, but anyone can look good in practice,” Jackson said. “They all have the potential to do well, and I want them to do well, but how well they perform is up to them.”

The men’s team is also similar to the women’s team in that they most likely will not topple the top programs of the conference. But considering the amount of depth, the team already eyes the Atlantic 10 Championships, which begin the first week of May, a meet in which the team can make noise.

The Minutewomen open their outdoor season April 3 at home against Boston College and Rhode Island, while the Minutemen will travel to the Sam Howell Invitational in Princeton, New Jersey on the same day.

Nick Souza can be reached at [email protected]