UMass women’s track and field ready to compete in Atlantic 10 championship

By Christopher Marino

(Collegian File Photo)

It’s been a season of success for the Massachusetts women’s track and field team as it has already seen some of its long-standing program recordings been rewritten, only to then be broken a few weeks later.

The Minutewomen have already broken five program records this season, two of which came at the David Hemery Valentine Invitational last Friday.

Elizabeth Gulino, Olivia Weir, Melissa Beaupre and Emilie Cowan broke the 4×400 meter program record that had lasted for 30 years prior with a time of 3:48.62, while Heather MacLean broke her own previous mark in the one-mile run, finishing with a time of 4:37:80

However when UMass heads to Kingston, Rhode Island for the Atlantic 10 championships this weekend, breaking records isn’t what the Minutewomen are set out to do.

“The team has worked very hard and our expectation is to go down this weekend and perform the best we have all season and win the championship,” Minutewomen coach Julie LaFreniere said.

“We are looking for placements, not necessarily times,” she added.

With that comes a different mentality heading into the meet as athletes can be running in as many as five different races – both primary and championship races – over the span of the weekend.

One of those athletes will be MacLean, who will be running in the 800-meter qualifying and championship races, the last leg of the distance medley relay – her leg is 1,600-meters – the one-mile and the last leg of the 400-meter relay.

“(MacLean) is talented enough and strong enough to do all of those events, but if she were to go out and break the mile record again she would wear herself out, so we are more focused on the competition than those records,” LaFreniere said.

With the A-10 championship now just day’s away, UMass has decreased its practice intensity and used the week to rest in preparation with the event set to start Saturday morning.

“We actually backed off this week,” LaFreniere said of the intensity level at practice. “We want to hit A-10’s ready to go. We want to be rested, healthy and aggressive.”

According to LaFreniere, the Minutewomen have 15 athletes and relay teams seeded in the top five of their respected events, three of which are seeded first.

“We have just as strong a chance to win the Atlantic 10 championship as anyone else has,” LaFreniere said.

“(We’re) hoping to keep up what we’ve been doing all season, going to Rhode Island hoping to perform better than we ever have before.”

The A-10 championship is set to begin at 9 a.m., Saturday morning and also at the same time Sunday.

Christopher Marino can be reached at [email protected]