Men's Outdoor Track

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
1997-98 Men's Track and Field Outlook

April 16, 1994 is a recent red-letter day of sorts for UMass on the outdoor track. It's the last time the men's team was defeated in a regular meet. Holy Cross snuck by the Minutemen, 78-76, that day in a five-way meet on Llewelyn Derby Track. UMass has not looked back since, posting a combined 27-0-1 mark in outdoor meets.

Last year the Minutemen were third in New England and second in the Atlantic 10 outdoors. The bulk of that squad returns for the 1997-98 season, a prospect that delights Head Coach Ken O'Brien as he gears up for his 31st year at the helm of the UMass track and field program.

"The 1997-98 edition of the Minuteman track & field team has every reason to be enthusiastic about the season," said O'Brien. "They have been undefeated for three years in outdoor track. They were runners up in the Atlantic 10 Outdoor Championship meet last year. They have the leading performers returning in 17 of the 20 events on the program. They have 15 of the top 20 point scorers returning and eight school record holders on the team. There's plenty to look forward to."

Sprints and Mid Distance

There are two sets of good news concerning the UMass sprint corps. The first is that UMass comes off of a year in which the sprint relays dominated like never before, setting school records in the 4x100 and 4x400 along with winning Atlantic 10 and New England Championships. UMass set a total of three school records last year. The second piece of good news is that of the 12 relay legs in those relays, 11 were run by returning runners.

Senior Scott Price, the 1997 A-10 Champion in the 100 meters, returns to lead the seasoned group. Price also ranks on the UMass all-time 55 meter list along with both the indoor and outdoor 200 meter charts. He ran on both of the 4x400 meter relay teams that set school records last year, and ran the anchor leg of the 4x100 meter relay team.

Along with Price, juniors Neil Concepcion and Tom Toye also ran on all three school record setting relays. Concepcion is stronger at the longer dashes, holding a spot on the UMass all-time top five charts in both the indoor 200 and 400 meters. Toye, meanwhile, holds the indoor school record in both the 200 and 400 meters and is second outdoors in both the 100 and 200 meters.

The other two runners from the school record holding relay teams, seniors Dave Cahill and Chris Conner, are also part of the core of this strong unit. Cahill is third on the all-time 500 meter chart and showed a proficiency in the 400 meter hurdles in the spring. Conner meanwhile has shown adept skill in the 400 where he was a New England Qualifier last year, augmenting his steady work in the 200 meters.

The addition of freshman Marc Sylvander will benefit an already strong unit. The Chicopee native was second in both Massachusetts and New England in last year's high school 400 meters, clocking in at 48.78. Also freshman Hugh Reid could wind up being a factor in the 400 and 800 meters before the season ends. All-Western Mass. runner Andrew Nowicki of Longmeadow could also factor in the 400.

At the longer distance, the 800 meters should also be a UMass strong suit this year. Senior Paul Blodorn leads a group that returns six of its top eight runners from last year. Blodorn has especially excelled in the indoor 800 where he is second on the all-time chart and a two-time IC4A qualifier.

"Historically the middle distance events have been a strong area for the Minuteman track and field team and this year should be no exception," said O'Brien. "Five of the top 400 meter runners from last year's record setting relays are back, featuring versatile sprinters Price, Toye and Concepcion leading the way. They will be joined by three strong freshmen as well. In the 800 meters Paul Blodorn and Dave Cahill lead a long list of veterans returning."

Hurdles

Junior Ben Baraldi will return to action this year, after being sidelined for all of last spring with a hamstring injury, as the second best 55 meter hurdler in UMass history. A year after qualifying for the indoor IC4As in the 55 meter hurdles and a second-place New England finish in the event, Baraldi should be a consistent high scorer for the Minutemen.

Freshman Marc Grogan will also boost the hurdle corps in support of Baraldi. The Central Catholic alum had a best time of 7.61 in the 55 meter hurdles and was third at the Massachusetts State High School Championships in the event.

Concepcion and Cahill will lead UMass in the longer hurdle events. Cahill was third in the 400 meter hurdles at last year's Atlantic 10 Championship and sixth at New Englands, while Concepcion posted the team's best time of the 1996 season in the 400 meter hurdles.

Distance

If there is any cause for concern for the Minutemen this year it is in the distance running corps that was decimated by graduation. Senior cross country co-captains Ryan Carrara and Brian Chabot return as top-flight runners but their supporting cast is youthful and inexperienced.

"With the graduation of eight seniors from this event group, the team will be hard pressed to pick up points in most mega meets," said O'Brien. "The cupboard is not bare however, as Ryan Carrara and Brian Chabot will be joined by rapidly improving Matt Ely, Dan LeBoeuf, Mike Marchand and Sean Murphy. There's talent in this group but experience must be gained before the big meets arrive."

Chabot is the team's top 1,500 meter runner, placing in the event at both the New England and A-10 Championships, and is also an IC4A Qualifier in the 1,000 meters. Carrara, an All-Conference cross country runner, is the team's top performer in both the 3,000 meters and the steeplechase.

Carrara will be backed up in the steeplechase by freshman Brendan Sullivan who was ranked No. 6 in the event in the United States by Track & Field News and was the runner-up at the New York State meet last year.

Ely, Marchand, LeBoeuf and Murphy are all looking to take the experience they gained in cross country and increases their track success by applying it to the 1,500 meters.

Jumps

Juniors Andre Roach, Ryan Fortune, Albie Vasquez and Eugene LaFlamme jump right to the head of the class for the UMass jumping contingent, but the trio is hardly alone. Each excels in their own area, covering all the bases.

Roach is last year's A-10 triple jump champion, an IC4A qualifier and ranks fourth on the school's all-time indoor chart. Fortune is part of a five-way log jam atop the outdoor high jump chart after finishing second in the high jump at both the indoor and outdoor A-10 Championships. Vasquez, meanwhile, is the proud owner of both the indoor and outdoor school pole vault records, setting the indoor mark of 14' 9" to claim the Atlantic 10 Championship in the event. LaFlamme specialized in the long jump last year and was rewarded with a fifth place finish at both the indoor and outdoor A-10 Championships.

Offering support is Brandon Tutt. The senior has consistently been the team's second triple jumper throughout his career and will continue in that role this year.

Two freshmen to keep an eye on are Kyle Kintner and Grogan. Kintner was second in the Pennsylvania State meet two years in a row in the pole vault and has cleared 14' 9," equaling Vasquez's career high. The versatile Grogan should see time in both the long and high jumps in addition to his hurdle duties.

Throws

The throws are another area where UMass expects to be highly competitive this year against the best the region has to offer. Sophomore Vic Morency and junior Jan Stevens lead this group.

Morency placed third this past summer at the Junior National Championships in the discus with a 168' 8" toss. As it stands, this places him second on the all-time chart as a freshman. He placed third in the javelin and fifth in the discus at the IC4A Championships.

Stevens holds the indoor school shot put record and ranks third all-time outdoors. Stevens has been an IC4A qualifier and A-10 Champion in the shot put and a New England qualifier in the discus.

Sean McDole will trade in his football pads in favor of a discus, shot put and 35 lb. weight once again this year. McDole, who started four games at left tackle this fall on the gridiron, was an IC4A discus finalist and the team's top weight thrower last year.

The Amherst branch of the state university system will greatly benefit from UMass-Dartmouth transfer B.J. Cardoza. A junior, Cardoza was Division III All-New England in the weight throw and will also contribute in the hammer and discus.

Expect to see a pair of freshmen battling out the javelin duties behind Morency. Jesse Austin and Chad Schwarz will each be afforded an opportunity to prove themselves after successful high school careers. Austin was the Massachusetts State Champion and the New England High School Champion in the javelin, while Schwarz was one of the top throwers in all of New Jersey.

Schedule

Indoors, the Minutemen have a pair of standard meets and the New England Challenge Cup on their winter docket as preparation for the larger meets where O'Brien will find out just how far his experienced squad can go.

Outdoors, the Minutemen will put their three-year undefeated streak to the test with a pair of home meets followed by a quad-meet at Northeastern. All this is just a prelude for the team though as it prepares for the warmer spring temperatures that signal the coming of Penn Relays, along with the Atlantic 10, New England and IC4A Championships.

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