NEW HAVEN, Conn. -
With the A-10 Championships approaching in just a few short weeks, the UMass men's indoor track and field team will continue its preparation this Friday and Saturday at the Giegengack Invitational. The annual event is hosted by Yale University in New Haven, Conn. and is set to commence at 6 p.m. on Friday and 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Koncki Claims School Record
It was week three that brought a new UMass indoor long jump record home on the heals of senior Zachary Koncki. With a mark of 24-00.25 at the Joe Donahue Invitational, the Northampton, Mass. native set a new school record while claiming first in the event and setting the best mark in the A-10 this season. The closest mark in the conference is 22-7.75 set by teammate Daniel Wu. The senior now holds both the indoor and outdoor long jump records as a Minuteman.
The next task on Koncki's list will be qualifying for the NCAA Regional Championships. By setting the school record with a jump of 7.31 meters, Koncki is now 0.69 meters away from reaching the NCAA qualifying standard if 8.00 meters.
Mid-Distance Making Moves
By clocking in at 1:04.71 in the 500 meter run, Grafov became the first mid-distance athlete to qualify for either the New England or IC4A Championships in the 2012 season thus far. The junior transfer student placed third in the event at the Great Dane Classic (1/20) and currently holds the second best A-10 time in the event.
Tom Mullen returned to action 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 fifth 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.
Revamped Relay Quads
It was Michael McDonough, Evan Donadt, Daniel Schwartz, and Paul Grafov who worked together to set a new team season best time in the 4x400 meter relay at the Joe Donahue Invitational (1/27). The UMass quad's final leg crossed the line at 3:24.78, good enough for third place at the Reggie Lewis Track Center, and second best time in the A-10 thus far in 2012.
The distance medley relay team comprised of Aaron Araujo, Michael Giardina, Paul Grafov, and Tom Mullen made a splash at the Great Dane Classic (1/20) by finishing third in the event with an IC4A Championship qualifying time of 10:15.27. This is the first relay squad that has qualified for either the New England or IC4A meet, to be run later this season.
In the season's opener (1/14) UMass' relay squads wasted no time in exemplifying their standard 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
Two jumpers posted solid marks at the Joe Donahue Invite (1/27) in Roxbury, Mass. AJ Grube, who has become a high jump staple for the Minutemen this season, tied his season best mark of 6-2.00 while placing seventh in the event. Daniel Wu also set a new personal season best mark of 43-8.00 in the triple jump while placing 12th overall. Wu is the only A-10 jumper to have competed in the triple jump this season.
Freshman Gregory Copeland was a bright spot for the Minutemen at URI in the first meet of the season (1/14). The first year jumper reached a height of 14-3.25 in the pole vault, placing third overall.
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 the NEC's later this season.
For a second time this season, Antony Taylor recorded a new personal record in the mile run, this time at the Joe Donahue Invitational (1/27) in week three. By crossing the line at 4:19.07, the sophomore bested his previous personal record by nearly five seconds.
At the season's second meet (1/20), it was the senior and freshman duo of Patrick McAllister and Michael Giardina, who both set new personal records in their respective distance events. The former of the two registered a time of 15:05.34 in the 5000 meter run, nearly 35 seconds improved from his previous career best in the event, and the fourth best in the A-10 this season. Giardina, the freshman, crossed the line at 4:34.82 in the mile run, erasing his previous career best of 4:35.51 set just a week prior at the Sorlien Invite (1/14).
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.
Sprinting Towards Success
Week three (1/27) brought the first New England Championship qualifier for UMass in a sprinting event. Aaron Araujo recorded a time of 49.86 in the 400 meter dash while placing third, setting a new personal record, registering the second best A-10 time this season, and posting the best individual time in the event by a Minuteman this season. Paul Grafov was just a mere 0.24 seconds away from adding his name to the 400 meter New England qualifying list as well, by registering a time of 50.54, a new personal record.
Freshman Raymond Acciavatti has been UMass' top sprinter in the 55 and 60 meter dashes through three weeks. In week one (1/14) the first year sprinter clocked in at 7.28 in the 60 meter event, while in week three (1/27) Acciavatti recorded a time of 6.77 in the 55 meter event. His 55 meter time ranks second best in the A-10.
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
The Joe Donahue Invitational (1/27) was the first meet this season where the Minutemen competed in the 55 meter hurdles as opposed to the 60 meter event. Zachary Koncki recorded the best team and A-10 time this season while setting a new personal record in the event by coming in at 7.73 in the preliminaries while eventually placing third in the finals of the event.
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.
League Play In The A-10
It was the school record breaking performance by Temple's Travis Mahoney that earned the senior A-10 Performer of the Week. He ousted UMass' Zachary Koncki, who also broke a school record. The Temple record in the mile run was 29 years old. Additionally, freshman Jamil Muhammed-Ray of Charlotte garnered Men's Rookie Performer of the Week for the second time this season.
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.
Freshmen On Board
Replicating week one, coach Ken O'Brien had seven first years in action at the Joe Donahue Invitational (1/27). Some highlights included Raymond Acciavatti recording the best team individual time this season in the 55 meter dash (6.77), Michael Giardina ranking as the top Minuteman out of seven in the 800 meter run with a time of 1:59.80, and Curt Owen seeing his first collegiate track action in the mile and 800 meter runs.
It was the quad of Peter Farlow, Gregory Copeland, Raymond Acciavatti, and Michael Giardina who saw action among the freshman at the highly competitive Great Dane Classic (1/20). Giardina had the best of the performance among the class of 2015, including helping an distance medley relay team to a qualifying mark for the IC4A Championships. The harrier also set a new personal record in the mile run by clocking in at 4:34.82.
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.