Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Heather MacLean shines in junior season for UMass track and field

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Collegian File Photo

(Collegian File Photo)

Heather MacLean has redefined the expectations for the Massachusetts women’s track and field team.

Despite being a standout runner both her freshman and sophomore years, it has been this year – her junior season – that has without a doubt topped them all. But this collegiate success almost never happen as she became immersed in the sport later than most.

“I started running my junior year of high school and I actually joined a couple of times and then would just not do it anymore,” MacLean said. “So what got me to stay was my best friend was doing it as well and my coach was really pressuring me to stick with it.”

Since the start of the 2016 indoor season, MacLean has placed in the top five of all eight of the Minutewomen’s events, including first place finishes in the 34th Yale Collegiate Invitational, Harvard Multi Meet, Joe Donahue Games and the John Thomas Terrier Invitational.

Her most recent accomplishment has been her greatest thus far, surpassing the 20-year-old UMass program record in the one-mile run in Boston last Friday. Beating the previous record by 9.5 seconds, MacLean crossed the finish line with a time of 4:40.57 at the John Thomas Terrier Classic.

“Crossing that line and looking at the clock I was like, ‘Woah,”” MacLean said about her record-breaking performance. “But once I got into the race I just felt really confident and knew what I was going after and I went for it.”

The Peabody native’s one-mile time currently ranks 20th in the nation and was more than enough to qualify for the New England and ECAC Championships.

She also noted the fact that there were professionals running in her heat and she did all that she could not to psych herself out before the race began.

MacLean’s success continued after a solid performance as a long distance runner for the cross country team earlier this fall. She finished 65th overall in the 6k event at the Paul Short Invitational Oct. 2, with a time of 21:38.8. MacLean also finished 14th overall at the New England Championships in the 5k event with a time of 18:09.3 and earned Atlantic 10 all-conference honors with a second place finish at the A-10 Championships in the 5k event with a time of 17:20.7.

MacLean said her decision to join the Minutewomen two years ago was easy, noting the optimism for the program’s future and her relationship with coach Julie LaFreniere.

“I picked UMass because I saw the most potential in this program and in me as an athlete here,” MacLean said. “Coach Julie was the most realistic with me and she had the most hope in her athletes so I think that’s what really got me to sign here.”

MacLean added that her uncle previously ran for the same high school that she attended at Peabody High School, which gave her more incentive to stick with the sport.

But as good as MacLean’s season has been so far, she has bigger goals than just breaking the school’s record.

“I definitely want to make it to nationals, hopefully two seasons if not all three, and I really hope that our team wins a championship,” MacLean said.

Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MWalker2019.

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