UMass women’s track and field takes first place at Pre-Conference meet

By Nick Souza

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)
(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

On an emotional Senior Day for the Massachusetts men’s and women’s track and field teams, the Minutewomen finished first and the men finished third in their final meets Saturday before the Atlantic 10 conference championships begin next weekend.

UMass men’s and women’s assistant coach David Jackson described the contrasting emotions he felt on that day.

“Today was a bittersweet day, this senior class was the first recruiting class that came in since I’ve been here and to see them graduating now it feels like it came so fast,” Jackson said.

Both teams managed a considerable amount of points against fields of strong opponents, including Dartmouth, UMass Lowell, New Hampshire and Vermont. The Minutemen finished third with 112.5 points (Dartmouth finished first) while the Minutewomen won their meet with 178 points.

Beyond the final score, several individual performances stood out for the squads, though gusty winds resulted in times a tick slower than expected.

“Everyone was complaining about the wind and it didn’t matter what race it was, especially on the finishing straight away,” Minutewomen coach Julie LaFreniere said. “But I think we’re in a good place right now as a team.”

The bulk of the points scored for the women’s team came in the field events that are less susceptible to wind. In the triple jump, three UMass competitors finished in the top four, led by Rebecca Stoyle. Ashley Palmer and Courtney Kromko followed with a third and fourth place finish, respectively.

“My last jump was where I felt like things were coming together,” Stoyle said. “My confidence definitely went up after (Saturday), I’m focused on the mark rather than the place and I was able to hit my goal of 40 feet.”

Palmer then won the long jump with a distance of 18 feet, five inches while Stoyle followed with a jump of 17 feet, 10 inches. Overall the Minutewomen placed five jumpers in the top eight.

“I think it was just the vibe of the whole meet and it being Senior Day that helped us,” Palmer said, “I know I’ve been more relaxed recently and I’ve been able to put everything I’ve gotten from training over the past four years together”.

UMass kept up its strong performance in the field, with three throwers finishing in first place in different events. Margaret Riseborough won the shot put with a throw of 43 feet, three inches, Emma Robinson took first in the javelin (131 feet, four inches) and Sara Wagner won the hammer throw (153 feet, two inches).

The Minutewomen struggled on the track amidst 13 to 15 mph winds. UMass was also without Heather MacLean, who was originally scheduled to run the 1,500-meter but missed it due to a calf injury.

In the 5,000-meter run, though, Colleen Sands finished second (17:58.67) despite being left on an island with the first place runner significantly ahead and the rest of the pack far behind.

“It was a good mental challenge for me and distance running is mostly mental anyway,” Sands said. “I was happy I was able to hit my goal of breaking 18 minutes.”

Minutemen Take Third

For the second meet in a row, the UMass men’s track team earned bronze in a seven-team meet.

On the track, Ben Groleau and Cory Thomas shined in the 1,500-meter run. Groleau began the race out front for the first 800 meters but Thomas took the lead in the middle of the race. In the final lap, though, Groleau mustered a strong enough kick to take first with Thomas trailing close behind. The Minutemen’s Paolo Tavares followed in fourth.

“The strategy of the race really depended on the weather, which didn’t really cooperate today,” Groleau said. “Cory and I talked before the race and we figured we’d share the load of leading against the wind.”

“I thought it was a well planned and executed race and both runners were able to have a competitive finish,” UMass coach Ken O’Brien said.

Austin Peters added to the Minutemen’s success in the 400-meter dash. The freshman posted a time of 49.82 to earn first place. According to O’Brien, Peters hasn’t seen much of a spotlight so far in his career but has impressed.

“He’s a little bit deceptive and not many people know about him,” O’Brien said. “He wasn’t really heavily recruited which was nice for us because we were able to sneak a really good runner on to the roster.”

In the 800-meter dash, Michael McNaughton finished first with a time of 1:53.35. McNaughton made a late charge and took the lead in the last 10 meters for the victory.

“I sat in third or fourth throughout the race just holding on,” McNaughton explained. “My coaches kept telling me to hold up until there was only about 75 meters in the race. I trust my coaches though, they give great advice and it usually works out in the end.”

After the meet, O’Brien spoke about the team’s form heading into the A-10 championships.

“We had really good performances against really good competition,” O’Brien said. “I am happy with where we are as a team at this point, even though we might not have a few events covered.”

The two-day conference championship begins May 2.

Nick Souza can be reached at [email protected]