Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s and women’s track and field postseason preview

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By Will Katcher, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts men’s and women’s track and field programs will officially move from regular season to postseason competition this Friday at the New England Championships. New Englands, which will continue into Saturday, are the first of four championship meets, which will take place between this weekend and early March.

The Minutewomen have 23 athletes qualified for New Englands, although seven are in multiple events. Their top seeded competitors are Jada Harris (first in high jump), Danielle Notarfrancesco (first in shot put), Bryanna Rivers (second in 800 meters), Colleen Sands (third in 3,000 meters), Ivana Nyemeck (third in triple jump), Lauren LaDere (third in shot put) and Kira Kopec (third in pentathlon).

On the men’s side, 14 athletes will compete at New Englands. Junior Nathan Adeyemi (long jump and triple jump) and sophomore Michael Cuthbert (200 and 400 meters) are the only ones who will compete in multiple events. Junior Jake DeGrace is the Minutemen’s highest ranked athlete at second in the 60 meter hurdles. Following him are Brian Gendron (sixth in 800 meters) and John Chuma (eighth in pole vault).

Following New Englands, the men and women will have two weeks to prepare for the Atlantic 10 Conference Championships, a major season milestone for both teams.

Though there are no qualification standards for the Atlantic 10 meet, several UMass athletes sit in top positions in the conference rankings. Freshman Bryanna Rivers is first in the 800 meters at 2:12.11, as is Jada Harris in the 60 meter hurdles (8.74) and high jump (5’8.75”). She is closely followed in the high jump by Samantha Thompson (5’7”, second in the conference). Heather MacLean, whose time of 9:03.03 set the school record in the 3000 meters earlier this season, is first in that event. In throwing, Danielle Notarfrancesco owns the top spot in the shot put at 48’0.75”.  Wrapping up the first places for the women is Bridget Deveau, who leads the conference in the pentathlon.

Representing the men in A-10’s, Brian Gendron is fourth in the 1,000 meters (2:27.24) and second in the mile (4:09.07), and Jake DeGrace is first in the 60 meter hurdles (8.07).

Last year, the Minutewomen placed fifth at A-10s, although two years ago they won the meet, and Coach Julie LaFreniere was named the conference’s coach of the year. This was her first indoor championship since 1998. The men placed third the last two years, but have not won an indoor championship in the Atlantic 10. Their last indoor track conference championship came as part of the Yankee Conference in 1975.

The teams will part ways after A-10’s. The men will head to the IC4A Championship while the women will head across town to the ECAC Championships, both in Boston on March 3 and 4. Both meets are “superconference” championships, meaning schools from multiple conferences belong to them in addition to their regular conference.

The top UMass seeds at ECAC and IC4A include Heather MacLean at second in in the 3000 meters, Jada Harris at third high jump and Bridget Deveau at fourth in the pentathlon for the women, and Jonathan Collins (16th in heptathlon) and Jake DeGrace (17 in 60 meter hurdles) for the men.

Finally, for those athletes that qualify, the NCAA Championships will be held at Texas A&M on March 9 and 10.

Interspersed with these meets will be the David Hemery Valentine Invitational on Feb. 10 and, for the women, a last chance qualifying meet on Feb. 24 before ECACs.

While many meets are on the calendar down stretch, UMass has its sights set on the New England Championships this Friday. The meet will kick off at 10:15 a.m. from the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and will continue the following day.

Will Katcher can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @will_katcher.

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