With Atlantic 10s looming, UMass hosts its Pre-Conference meet

By Nick Souza

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(Andy Castillo/Daily Collegian)

(Andy Castillo/Daily Collegian)

Both the Massachusetts men’s and women’s track and field teams are nearing the final act.

After weeks of tune-up meets and preparations, UMass is beyond the audition stage of its season and is approaching its dress rehearsal. After that, it’s a number of showcase performances, the first being the Atlantic 10 Championships.

The men and women will host their Pre-Conference meet this Saturday at 11 a.m. It’s an eventful day, as UMass will host the Track and Field Alumni, honor its seniors on Senior Day and dedicate a new scoreboard for the facility prior the meet.

The field will include six teams, with New Hampshire, Dartmouth and UMass Lowell being among them.

“It’ll be a strong talent pool for our team, and because there are only six teams, it won’t take quite as long to get through it and it will still resemble the kind of competition the athletes need to be ready for,” men’s coach Ken O’Brien said.

Both the men and women will use this meet as an opportunity to fulfill multiple last-minute tweaks before the championship season starts. The goals for this meet will be different for each individual athlete. Some athletes will try to better their positions for meets like ECAC, IC4A or even NCAA Regionals. Others will be trying to put up performances just to earn themselves a spot on the 30-athlete roster for A-10s.

For the men’s side, this meet will be very similar to how they plan to line up their athletes for A-10s. The coaching staff will want to see what the athletes’ best events are, and if they have legitimate scoring possibility should they run those meets.

Some of the athletes for the men’s team will have to grapple with maintaining focus during this meet, and the nerves that come with having the championships around the corner. With a young roster, this puts the youth of the Minutemen to the test again, but they have responded well thus far this season.

“They have grown mentally and emotionally over the past few weeks, and it shows in their physical performance,” O’Brien said, “I’m so happy with how our team has performed and developed at this point I’ll take whatever the outcome is for us at the end of the season.”

Minutewomen begin to position themselves

The Minutewomen are in a different situation compared to the men’s team. With a large number of seniors, the Minutewomen will look to improve their times this weekend in order to position themselves for a better championship season. Many of the athletes have their eyes set on NCAA Regionals in about a month’s time.

“We’re going for more quality performances this weekend,” Minutewomen coach Julie LaFreniere said. “Our top athletes will be squeezed next week for every possible point they can get, so now is the best time to try and get those qualifying times.”

In order to get the best performances out of athletes, LaFreniere has positioned certain runners against specific competition.

Heather MacLean will run the 1,500-meter race for just the second time in her career, but considering her first attempt landed her on the top-five all-time performance lists for the school, it’s expected that she will continue with it. LaFreniere has positioned her to run against two of the best distance runners UNH has to offer.

“I’m excited to see how she’ll match up against them,” LaFreniere said, “Hopefully they can help pull through at the pace she needs to move up in the region.”

MacLean’s main goal is for her to pace through the 800-meter mark in the race to be at 2:20, which will hopefully set her up for a final time of 4:20.

Other individuals to watch include freshman Colleen Sands, who dramatically improved her steeplechase time last week. However, for the sake of saving her legs, she will be running the 5,000-meter this Saturday. Also, Becky Stoyle, Courtney Kromko and hopefully Ashley Palmer will all be looking to improve their marks in the long and triple jump this weekend to position themselves for the championship season.

Nick Souza can be reached at [email protected]