ALBANY, N.Y. -
Heading to the Liberty State, Ken O'Brien and the UMass men's indoor track and field squad will travel to the Great Dane Invitational this Friday. The University of Albany will be hosting the annual classic, which is slated to start at 12:30 p.m. This will be the Minutemen's one and only trip to New York during both the indoor and outdoor campaigns.
Koncki Aims For School Record
Senior Zachary Koncki got off to a quick start at the Sorlien Invitational on Jan. 14. The senior jumper stretched a distance of 23-1.25, good enough to place second and qualify for both the New England and IC4A Championships. Koncki's mark of 23 plus feet is top in the Atlantic 10 early on this winter. The Northampton, Mass. native additionally qualified for the New England meet in the 60 meter hurdles by clocking in at 8.39 in the preliminaries.
With a current career best mark of 23-6.25, Koncki will have his eye on the school record this winter, while already setting the outdoor long jump school record last spring. Koncki is approximately four inches away from the top historical UMass mark, while holding the third best in UMass history. Eric Hoagland jumped 23-10.25 to set the school's best historical mark back in 2007.
Joining Koncki as part of the stellar jumping core for UMass is co-senior Daniel Wu. The Tenafly, N.J. native was UMass' most versatile jumper last indoor season, competing in the long, triple, and high jump events. Wu qualified for the New England Championships as well at the season opener (1/14) in the long jump. A leap of 22-7.75 was just what it took to place fifth in the event, and sure up a spot at NEC's later this season.
Freshman Gregory Copeland was a bright spot for the Minutemen at URI in the first meet of the season. The first year jumper reached a height of 14-3.25 in the pole vault, placing third overall.
Mid-Distance Making Moves
Tom Mullen returned at the Sorlien Invitational, in just the same fast form he ended his 2011 indoor campaign. The sophomore registered a time of 2:33.33 in the 1000 meter run, setting a new career personal record in the event while placing second. Mullen's time sits third best in the A-10 thus far in 2012. John Mantia was also a pleasant addition to the event for UMass, as the first year took home fourth place in 2:38.59.
Paul Grafov, Zach Hildenbrandt, Nick Otis, Michael McDonough, Evan Donadt, and Joe Doyle will form the nucleus of UMass' efforts in the 500 meter run. Five-of-six qualified for the New England Championships last season, while Grafov set a mark good enough to go to the IC4A Meet as well. Grafov also recorded the fastest team season time in the event, at the Reebok Indoor Games, where the junior crossed the line at 1:04.59.
Joe Doyle and Tom Mullen are the faces to watch in the 800 meter run this winter. Both were New England Championship qualifiers in the event last season, while Doyle also qualified for the IC4A Championships, and set the second best all-time school mark in the event. Doyle's record time came at the IC4A Meet, when the current junior clocked in at 1:52.66. Joining Doyle and Mullen in the 800 will be Michael McDonough and Nick Otis, who can notch crucial points for the Minutemen.
The 1000 meter event loses two of its all-time best Minutemen in the forms of Scott VanderMolen and Sean Duncan. Coach Ken O'Brien has a strong core to replace the graduated veterans, with underclassmen Tom Mullen, Antony Taylor, and Patrick McGowan returning to provide support from the bottom up. Both Taylor and McGowan are coming off solid sophomore cross country seasons, and should be well prepped for the mid-distance and distance events this indoor season. Of the returning core, Taylor posted the best mark among all three last season by registering a time of 2:35.35 at the New England Championships.
In the mile run, Antony Taylor set a new personal record while claiming second in the event in the first meet of the 2012 campaign (1/14). The Arlington, Mass. native recorded a time of 4:24.04, the current fourth best A-10 time this season.
In the season's opener (1/14) UMass' relay squads wasted no time in exemplifying their motto for the season. The quad of Aaron Araujo, Evan Donadt, Paul Grafov, and Chris Greene took home gold in the 4x400 meter event with a team time of 3:27.55. Following the lead, Michael Giardina, Zach Hildenbrandt, Patrick McAllister, and Tom Mullen also notched a top-2 finish by placing second in the 4x800 meter relay in 8:25.25
The best of the 4x400 meter relay teams was the quad composed of Aaron Araujo, Nick Otis, Paul Grafov, and Michal McDonough at the New England Championships. With a season best team time of 3:20.76, the foursome registered a ninth place finish in the Massachusetts's state capital. All four harriers are set to be back on the track this winter for coach Ken O'Brien.
The most impressive of relay team marks from last season came from a distance medley relay quad that brought home an A-10 Title. Back this year from that quad are Evan Donadt and Joe Doyle who aided the 10:00.99 first place finish at the conference meet.
Sprinting Towards Success
Paul Grafov was back at what he does best on Jan. 14. The sprinter logged a time of 50.74 in the 400 meter event, taking home fifth place overall. His time sits fourth best in the A-10 thus far this season.
Quinn Ryder quickly burst onto the collegiate scene as just a freshman last winter, qualifying for the New England Championships in both the 55 and 60 meter dashes. The sophomore's best 55 meter time came at the Reebok Indoor Games, where he crossed the line at 6.52 while claiming first place in the event. The North Easton, Mass. native recorded his best 60 meter mark at the Valentine Invitational, clocking in at 7.03.
Brothers Ted and Chris Greene were a staple for the Minutemen in the 200 and 400 meter dashes. Both qualified for the New England Championships in the 400 event, while Ted also added his naming to the qualifiers in the 200 meter dash. Ted competed in six-of-eight meets as just a first year, while brother Chris ran in four.
Overcoming The Hurdles
It was not a veteran, but rather a hurdler who has yet to compete in a collegiate meet prior to this year, who stood out at the season opener in Rhode Island (1/14). Stephen Bigelow qualified for the New England Championships for the first time in his career in the 60 meter hurdles. The sophomore was UMass' best competitor in the event at the Sorlien Invitational, setting a time of 8.32 in the finals of the event while placing second. The mark is the top in the A-10 thus far in 2012.
Long jump expert, Zachary Koncki, has also notched his name as one of UMass' top hurdlers during the past three indoor seasons. In the 55 and 60 meter hurdles, the senior qualified for the New England Championships last season, while additionally qualifying for the IC4A Championships in the 55 meter event. At the Sorlien Invitational on Jan. 14, Koncki qualified for the New England Championships in the 60 meter hurdles, by clocking in at 8.39 in the preliminaries of the event while placing second.
Evan Donadt is another veteran that will compete in the hurdles for UMass this indoor season. Donadt recorded the third best team season individual time in the 60 meter hurdles last year, with a mark of 8.49 at the Valentine Invitational. By crossing the line at 8.63 in the 60 meter hurdles, Donadt placed a solid fourth in the event at URI in the season's first meet (1/14).
Aaron Araujo, UMass's top 400 meter hurdler in his freshman outdoor campaign last spring, returns to compete this indoor season. The current sophomore had the third best individual team time in the 55 meter hurdles in 2010-11, posting a mark of 8.11 at the Reebok Indoor Games.
League Play In The A-10
Fordham's Sean Atkinson and Charlotte's Jamil-Muhammed-Ray took home the A-10 Performer of the Week and A-10 Rookie Performer of the Week awards for the weekend of Jan. 14-15.
The Atlantic 10 Coaches' Poll has picked UMass to finish fourth in a field of ten conference squads this indoor track and field season. Northeast rival, Rhode Island, is slated to repeat as A-10 Champion, with Charlotte and Temple ranking second and third behind the Rams.
Of the 52 man roster heading into the indoor track and field campaign, 22 will be new faces on the track for UMass. That is by far the most members in any class on the current roster, with the closest being sophomores at 14. Composing the class of 2016 are four mid-distance competitors, six distance harriers, one jumper, one hurdler, one thrower, one multi, three sprinters, and five combo-event athletes.
Stability At The Helm
With head coach Ken O'Brien returning for his 45th season at the helm of the men's track and field program, the Minutemen own the most seasoned leader in the A-10 Conference. In O'Brien's 44 seasons coaching cross country and track and field at UMass, the Minutemen have won 19 conference titles (Yankee, Atlantic 10 and Eastern), four New England crowns, two IC4A titles and have had seven All-America performers. During the 2008 cross country season, O'Brien was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year, as the Minutemen finished first in the league. This was the second-ever Minutemen A-10 Cross Country Title, the first coming in 1995.
A long time contributor to the sport of track and field, O'Brien has served numerous regional and national associations. He served as secretary of the NCAA Cross Country Coaches Association from 1975-80, has been president of the IC4A coaches association and was re-selected to the coaching staff of the National Olympic Development Distance Runners Training Center at Lake Placid, N.Y.
A native of Foxboro, Mass., O'Brien won 10 letters in football, basketball, baseball and track and captained all four sports his senior year at Foxboro High School. O'Brien and his wife Claudia, reside in Amherst, Mass.
Behind O'Brien are third year assistants David Jackson and Darcy Wilson. Both have made the most of their stints in Amherst, helping to produce multiple UMass record book performances and A-10 Conference and New England Champions.
Completing his second season coaching for the Minutemen, Jackson has already set a track record for excellence, producing one NCAA East Region Qualifier (Brian Miller-high jump); six conference champions (Sean Busch - 2x indoor & 2x outdoor pole vault; Brian Miller outdoor high jump, & Zachary Koncki indoor long jump), one indoor New England Champion (Zach Koncki indoor long jump), and three school records (indoor pole vault (16'.75"), outdoor high jump (7' .25"), outdoor long jump (23' 10.75"). He also has helped yield one Atlantic 10 Field Event Performer of the Year(B. Miller), one A-10 Student-Athlete of the Year, a UMass Student-Athlete of the Year, two UMass Winter Student-Athletes, a Spring Student-Athlete of the Year (S. Busch), and multiple Student-Athletes of the Weeks as well UMass top three record holders.
Darcy Wilson enters her third season as an assistant coach for the UMass track and field programs. Wilson, who has worked with several NCAA qualifiers and an NCAA champion at the Division III level, will be coaching the throwing events for the Minutemen and Minutewomen.
Cameron Carter will also be on staff this season as a volunteer assistant coach. Carter was a four-year standout thrower at Colorado State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Kinesiology at UMass.