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 Ken O'Brien
Chat with men's cross country/track & field head coach Ken O'Brien this Friday at 11 a.m. Coach O'Brien will be stopping by the media relations office to talk about his Minutemen squads, including the upcoming cross country season as UMass will look to defend its 2008 A-10 title this fall. Submit your questions now!
Ken O'Brien: Hi everyone and thanks for your questions and for joining us for the chat today.

300kicks (Taunton): Can/Will Jon Pierce break into the Top 5 at the A10 Championship Meet? As you look forward to the track seasons, which incoming freshmen will have an immediate impact on the 2009-10 campaign?
Ken O'Brien: Jon Pierce had a great conclusion to last year, which started with the conference championship in cross country and continued all the way into the outdoor season. He's had a great summer of training and he certainly has the potential to make the all-conference team in what I consider to be one of the deepest and most competitive years in A-10 history. To answer the second part of your question, we do anticipate several freshmen making an impact on this year's track and field team. Fortunately for us they are all in events where we need immediate help. We do have a handful of younger competitors that will help us build some depth in the sprints, hurdles, jumps and middle distance.

John (South Hadley): I hear you enjoy golf quite a bit - when was the last time you were able to play and would you ever go golfing with Sam Koch again?
Ken O'Brien: Thanks for the question, John. Golf is one of my favorite summer activities. As coaches often wait for the summer with an eye towards playing golf. Unfortunately, all too often, we find we are too busy to do it as often as we like, but Coach Koch and I have a great time whenever we get a chance to play together. We wish it could be more often.

Andrew (Lowell): Seeing as how you are the longest tenured coach at UMass as well as an alum, was there ever a point during your time at UMass that you considered coaching at a different institution?
Ken O'Brien: There were some opportunities earlier in my career, but my wife and I and children love the Amherst area so much that we knew it was best for us to stay.

Joseph Cirnigliaro: Hello Coach, My name is Joseph Cirnigliaro. I was just recently admitted to UMass Amherst monday (Aug. 31st, 2009) and am interested in joining the team. I don't know how to contact you. thank you for your time, Joseph Cirnigliaro
Ken O'Brien: Thanks for your interest, Joseph. Stop by the track office at Curry Hicks Cage during the first week of school.

Bill Brubaker (Boston): Can you tell us about your earliest memories of UMass when you were a student ... what is the biggest thing that's different, I'm sure its a lot.
Ken O'Brien: My main motivation in going to college was to prepare myself to be a coach. It seemed important to be on a team to accomplish that. The teammates I joined and the coaching staff we had made my transition to a large university was instantly an enjoyable experience. There's some significant difference in the physical size of the campus, but UMass has, most importantly, always been a place that the students are so friendly that it still seems as small as it was in the early 60's.

Sally (New Haven): You have worked with Julie for a longtime, how do you guys keep from getting in each others nerves?
Ken O'Brien: I think we both share the same level of commitment. We both have come through the UMass system as students and coaches together. We both have the same philosophy that the role of athletics plays in the total development of a student-athlete. We have no difficulties setting aside minor aggravations.

Jeremy (Fall River): Who stands out as you all-time UMass track runners. Name a top 5.
Ken O'Brien: That's a tough question, Jeremy. I don't think many coaches that are continuously asked that question can ever come up with an answer. Our sport has 22 events, so it's impossible to narrow it down to a single person or a top five.

Bruno Sammartino: What other sports did you play in college? Did you wrestle.
Ken O'Brien: Actually I played four sports in high school and I also played freshman basketball at UMass. That was at a time where you had to be a sophomore or above to be eligible for the varsity team. Wrestling was never in my plans.

murton, Portland Maine: What advise would you give a young runner to do to get into more distance running. I want to build my endurance but am struggling with that. Thanks coach.
Ken O'Brien: Sometimes a young runner can build their endurance and benefit by doing it in other activities. Ones that come to mind are soccer, cycling, swimming and tennis. All of those will build your endurance and provide a psychological break along the way. Those mixed in with running when you feel like it, should give you a satisfying mental and physical experience.

Jill, deerfield, mass.: Who are the key performers for the cross country season?
Ken O'Brien: This year's team features a large amount of experienced runners. We have five seniors and five juniors returning from last year's team that won the A-10 meet. I am fortunate enough to feel that any of those 10 upperclassmen will make outstanding contributions throughout the entire season.

Matt Klypka (Oakland, NJ): Coach O'Brien, With a conference title to defend and being picked preseason in the latest poll to repeat the task, how will you prepare your squad both mentally and physically throughout the course of the season to bring home another title? And what are the other goals of the team this season? Good Luck! Matt
Ken O'Brien: I think the theme for improvement is always the same. We set higher expectations for the team and individuals than we had last year. To accomplish that goal you set higher workloads than you performed in the past. You use an accountability factor to make sure everyone stays focused during the entire year on the goals and the harder workload. As the runners see improved performances, their motivation rises.

Sunderland: Mr. O'Brien, It has come to my attention that you have a very strong team this year. How does this team compare with some of your best teams in the past?
Ken O'Brien: Our goal for this year's team is to have it reach a level of performance that is equal to some of our best teams in the past. We have had several years that our cross country team qualified for and participated in the NCAA Championships. Our highest NCAA place finish as a team was eighth. This year's team's goal is to achieve a level that ranks them among the best in program history.

Mat (New York City): Coach O'brien, Is there anyone on the team you expect to have a particularly breakout season?
Ken O'Brien: With the depth of this year's team, I actually anticipate that they will push each other hard enough that several people will have breakout seasons. And if that is true, I see this as the best way for our team to reach our goal more so than if one individual steps forward.

Dave (Montague): Coach, what do you think of what Usain Bolt has done for the sport? He says he wants to try long jump now, could this guy win any event he wants to?
Ken O'Brien: Track and field is like most other sports that the world stage is drawn to a premiere athlete in each sport. Historically, track and field's signature events have been the 100m or the mile. We are very lucky to have an athlete of his ability in the sprints because it captures most spectators' interest. With his youth, we are fortunate to have his excellence available to us for many years to come.

Mathew NYC: Are there any particular meets you look forward to more than others during the year? Are there any you do not go to anymore, but would like to again?
Ken O'Brien: Great question, Mathew. I think in our sport, conference championships often grab a competitor's interest early in their career. Hopefully as the athlete's level of experience grows, they start to focus on more of a national level of performance. Our team has qualified for the NCAAs several times in our school's history and that's the meet I think we'd all like to get back to.
Ken O'Brien: Thanks everyone for joining us today. Thanks for your interest in our program and follow us and all UMass teams throughout the course of the year on Until next time...Go UMass!

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