UMass women’s track and field captures A-10 title, Minutemen turn in third-place finish

By Christopher Marino

(Andy Castillo/Daily Collegian)
(Andy Castillo/Daily Collegian)

Backed by record-setting performances by junior Heather MacLean and freshman Emilie Cowan, the Massachusetts women’s track and field team won the Atlantic 10 championship this past weekend in Kingston, Rhode Island.

MacLean broke the Atlantic 10 record in the 800-meter race with a time of 2:09.06 in one of her three first place finishes. She also took home victories in the mile and the DMR relay.

Cowan won the 500-meter race with a time of 1:13.57, tying the UMass record and setting a new mark in the A-10. She set an additional school record in the 200-meter race, which she also won.

The duo were rewarded for their performances at the meet’s conclusion as Cowan was selected as the most outstanding rookie and MacLean earned top honors as the meet’s most outstanding performer.

“Those two individuals brought home a lot of points in this meet,” UMass coach Julie LaFreniere said. “But we had great performances throughout the meet.”

MacLean and Cowan might have grabbed the individual spotlight, but LaFreniere stressed the team aspect of the championship weekend.

“The key to winning is that this team operated as a team, a lot of people call us an individual sport but you can’t go into a championship atmosphere with that attitude,” she said. “They are a team and they dug very deep in a lot of events to pull out their outstanding performances… you can’t win a championship without that team performance.”

A prime example of this was the gutsy performance by senior Kelsey Crawford. She was eventually forced to withdraw from the meet with a left foot injury that required a walking boot, but not before she earned a second place finish in the shot put.

“She was in excruciating pain and could not continue to throw,” LaFreniere said. “(But) the team needed the points. That was crucial and I think a lot of her teammates were looking at that and thinking if Kelsey can compete at that level and that well with a significant injury, than we certainly can get out there and get the job done.”

After the meet, LaFreniere talked about the training the Minutewomen undertook and the physical effort they exerted throughout the season.

“They worked extremely hard. We squeezed everything out of them for the conference meet,” LaFreniere said. “I asked them was it worth it all and they said, ‘Absolutely yes.’”

Minutemen place third in A-10s

Behind strong performances in distance and field events, the Massachusetts men’s track and field team put in a third place showing at the A-10 conference championship meet. With 90.83 points, the Minutemen were beaten by Rhode Island (188.6 points) and George Mason (184.83) out of the 10 teams that competed.

Redshirt junior Kris Horn led the way for the Minutemen, taking home first place in the heptathlon with 5,318 points. The Connecticut transfer broke the school record and A-10 championship record with the win and was named the most outstanding performer of the meet.

UMass assistant coach David Jackson said he knew a big performance from Horn was possible, but nothing was a given.

“I know how our guys can perform and I know they have the ability to perform at the capacity to do well against the conference opponents,” Jackson said. “I didn’t know if Kris could win the (heptathlon) or not. When you have multiple facets of an event, you need things to go your way, and couple things went our way”

Senior Ben Groleau (4:11.67) and junior Cory Thomas (4:13.81) added important contributions to the third place effort in the mile, where they took first and second place respectively. Paolo Tavares added a top-five finish in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 8:29.16.

Groleau and Thomas combined with fellow upperclassmen Youssef El Korchi and sophomore Andrew Burke to take first place in the distance medley relay as well.

Jackson talked about the poise and focus UMass displayed in the pressure-filled championship meet.

“It’s one thing to have a group of talented kids and it’s another thing to have a group of talented kids that understand what’s at stake, how to maintain poise and how to actually handle the emotions and the energy of a championship level meet,” Jackson said.

Other contributors for the Minutemen included Cole Acoveno (1.99 meters) and John Chuma (4.5 meters) who finished fifth in the high jump and pole vault respectively.

“One thing we emphasized was for them to compete,” Jackson said. “We brought you to a championship level meet to compete and I think all of our guys did that. We had some guys in finals that weren’t seeded very high, but we knew they could do it.”

Chris Marino can be reached at [email protected]