UMass women’s track and field opens at home while Minutemen hit the road to start the season

By Nick Souza

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(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

With limited time for both teams to prepare for their conference and regional championship meets at the end of the indoor season, the Massachusetts men’s and women’s track and field teams now look to get off on the right foot this weekend at their respective invitational meet.

The Minutewomen host Rhode Island and Boston College this Friday, while the Minutemen go on the road twice this weekend to begin the season.

The UMass women’s team welcomes its two regional rivals to its home track and will give Minutewomen coach Julie LaFreniere a chance to truly evaluate where her athletes are in their training early in the season. It also provides the athletes the chance to compete with very little time before the championship meets in mid-May.

“This early in the season, the meets are used to get athletes ready to handle a high volume of races and still produce high quality performances,” LaFreniere said.

In addition, Saturday’s meet will be the first time athletes such as Katie Powers, Courtney Neves and Courtney Kromko will compete this close to full health after being hindered by injuries throughout different points of the indoor season.

However, senior long and triple jumper Becky Stoyle will not be available this weekend, although she is on schedule to return by next week.

According to LaFreniere, it will be important to see how the Minutewomen handle running and jumping at a high level, while trying to maintain their health so they can be ready later in the year.

Additional athletes with high expectations include senior distance runner Rachel Hilliard, sophomore Heather MacLean and senior sprinter and jumper Ashley Palmer.

Hilliard finished in eighth place in the 3,000-meter run at the ECAC championships in March. Palmer took seventh in the meet’s long jump event.

Minutemen hit the road twice

The UMass men’s team will be sending athletes to two different locations to start the season to help break in the outdoor season.

The Minutemen’s first meet is the Sam Howell Invitational in Princeton, New Jersey and will specifically cater to long distance runners competing in events not offered during the indoor season.

UMass has seven athletes entered in three events Friday night, with three who are expected to qualify. Freshman Samuel Conway and sophomore Blake Croteau have high expectations in the 10,000-meter run, while sophomore Paolo Tavares may prove competitive in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

American International College will then hold the Yellow Jacket Invitational on Saturday in Springfield in a meet that has consistently been on the team’s schedule for the past few seasons.

In the past, the meet has served as a measuring stick for the coaching staff to evaluate against a solid pool of competition. However, the athletes still see it as a challenge to win.

“Whenever you put a uniform on the young athletes, it’s a chance to compete,” Minutemen coach Ken O’Brien said. “If they see a different uniform they want to win, the coaches want them to win as well but the main goal is to see what the athletes look like.”

UMass hopes to have the same success as last year where it finished second against a talented and diverse composition of teams from all three divisions of track.

On an individual level, senior Peter Farlow will look to repeat his success in the 400-meter hurdles after his first place finish a year ago. Other athletes to watch at this meet include Michael McNaughton and Ben Groleau in distance events and Adam Bonfilio in the 110-meter hurdles.

“It’s the first meet and it’ll probably be cold and windy so there will be some rustiness among the athletes,” O’Brien said. “But we could finish first or ninth at the meet and my feelings won’t change. The most important thing it to see the runners and how they perform.”

Nick Souza can be reached at [email protected]