Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass athletes prepare for their first decathlon and heptathlon of the outdoor season

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(Andy Castillo/Daily Collegian)

(Andy Castillo/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s and women’s track and field teams will send a combined six athletes to Worcester to compete in the two-day Holy Cross Decathlon/Heptathlon event.

Competing for the Minutemen is junior Nick Ingham, sophomore Adam Bonfilio, senior Greg Copeland and sophomore Kris Horn. The Minutewomen will send a pair of freshmen, Julia Witt and Bridget Deveau.

Assistant coach David Jackson has worked with these multi-event athletes since September, and said it has been a long grind to this point. The next step for UMass will be to hit qualifying marks that will put it past the initial championship meets at the beginning of May and into the New England, ECAC and IC4A championships.

“It’s been a long year, and we’re just trying to see where we are at this point,” Jackson said. “Right now it’s a balancing act between getting good work in for the athletes and being smart and staying healthy.”

For the men competing Wednesday and Thursday, they will have the advantage of experience in a decathlon. Experience goes a long way in handling the event-to-event grind that the decathlon is. It also makes them less vulnerable to over-thinking or worrying about warming up and over preparing for each individual event.

While the women’s side has less experience, there is no shortage of talent or work ethic. Witt, who is coming off a very good high jump performance this past weekend, also competed in the pentathlon during the indoor season.

Deveau was also a multi-event competitor during her high school career in Canada, and will look to qualify for the junior national team for the heptathlon.

However, given that this will be a two-day event, recovery will be a key factor for the team to focus on between the first and second day. The athletes’ endurance will be tested, but according to Jackson, it’s more about the mental endurance than the physical. The athletes will have to maintain focus from event to event in order to perform well.

“Being a decathlete comes with a different type of mentality,” Jackson said. “You have to love the grind in order to be good at it.”

The decathlon and heptathlon are scored differently from regular track and field events. It is scored as a raw data event, which means that every time or measurement the athletes achieve will have a certain amount of points attached to it. This scoring method has an interesting effect on the strategy for the competitors.

“The goal for the athletes is to focus on their weakest events in order to maximize their point total, while not messing up in their strongest events,” Jackson added. “They want to minimize points lost in weak events so they don’t take away from their stronger events.”

UMass will decide whether it wants to send athletes to the Holy Cross Invitational set for Saturday after the decathlon ends Thursday.

Nick Souza can be reached at [email protected]

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