BOSTON, Mass. -
Championships season continues in stride this weekend for the UMass men's indoor track and field team with a haul to the New England Championships. The Minutemen will compete over a two-day span in Boston, Mass. with the second-of-three trips to Boston University this season. Events on Friday and Saturday are set to commence at 10 a.m.
Looking In The Rear View Mirror
Last year's New England Meet was a highly successful one for UMass as two New England Champions were crowned in the 60 meter hurdles and long jump. Tyler Cotto, who took home the hurdling crown graduated in 2011, but the Minutemen return long jump champ Zachary Koncki.
Ken O'Brien's squad was able to notch sixth place at last year's NEC's with a total of 44 points. The highly competitive meet featured 35 teams from across New England, all competing at Boston University.
Revamped Relay Quads
At the A-10 Meet (2/18), Thomas Mullen, Jared Reddy, Curt Owen, and Antony Taylor were glued as a unit by producing a speedy time of 7:52.71 in the 4x800 meter relay. The time qualified the quad for both the New England and IC4A Championships, while also setting a season-best team time for UMass.
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.
Sprinting Towards Success
Aaron Araujo reeled off a second place finish in 49.59 at the A-10 Championships (2/18) in the 400 meter dash. The sophomore was just 0.29 away from claiming his first-career A-10 Crown. Adding to his list of accomplishments this season at the Valentine Invitational (2/11), Araujo qualified for the IC4A Championships in the 400 meter dash. The sophomore clocked in at 48.89 while placing 19th at the high volume competition. In week three (1/27) Araujo became the first New England Championship qualifier for UMass in a sprinting event. By recording a time of 49.86, the New Bedford, Mass native reeled of a third place finish, set a new personal record.
Paul Grafov delivered a NEC qualifying and personal best time of 49.60 in the 400 meter event while taking home 37th at the Valentine Invite (2/11). Grafov is now one-of-two sprinters set to race at the New England Meet later this season.
Freshman Raymond Acciavatti has been UMass' top sprinter in the 55 and 60 meter dashes through four meets. In week four (2/4) the first year clocked in at 7.22 in the 60 meter event, while in week three (1/27) Acciavatti recorded a time of 6.77 in the 55 meter event.
Overcoming The Hurdles
At the A-10 Championships (2/18), Zachary Koncki and Stephen Bigelow formed the core of UMass' efforts in the 60 meter hurdles. The former delivered a career-best readout of 8.28 (5P) in the preliminaries, while Bigelow's best time of the day fell at 8.46 (6P) in the prelims as well.
It was not a veteran, but rather a hurdler who has yet to compete in a collegiate meet prior to this year, who has stood out through four weeks of competition. Most recently, Stephen Bigelow ratcheted a first place finish at the Giegengack Invite (2/4) in the 60 meter hurdles with a time of 8.38. In week Bigelow competed in Rhode Island (1/14) and qualified for the New England Championships 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 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 set 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. According to the USTFCCCA the official conversion factor between the 55 and 60 hurdles is 1.0766.
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.
Mid-Distance Making Moves
Paul Grafov's handiwork in the 500 meter run, pushed him to a seventh place finish at the A-10 Championships. The third-year crossed the line at 1:06.15, marking UMass' top finisher in a mid-distance event at A-10's. 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).
Thomas Mullen continued to pursue his string of luck in the 1000 meter run at the A-10 Championships (2/18). With a readout of 2:31.19, the sophomore recorded a career-best mark in the event while placing tenth. At the Valentine Invite (2/11), Mullen ran his signature event from his freshman campaign, the 800 meter run. The New Bedford, Mass. native came home with a career-best time of 1:53.14, which qualified him for both the New England and IC4A Championships while placing 24th in the event.
First-year harrier Curt Owen was a bright spot for the Minutemen at the Giegengack Invitational. He set a new personal record of 1:58.06, placed 14th, and was the top Minuteman in the event.
Marking a personal record in the high jump, AJ Grube led UMass in the event at the A-10 Championships (2/18) by reaching a height of 6-6.25. The mark signaled ninth place for the junior. Also strong as always for the Minutemen was Zachary Koncki who came home with third place in the long jump after a leap of 23-3.50 at the conference meet.
On the path to the A-10 Meet, first-year Gregory Copeland set a new career-best mark in the pole vault at Boston University (2/11). Copeland vaulted to a height of 14-7.25, good enough for seventh overall.
At the A-10 Championships (2/18), Daniel Wu posted a season-best personal mark in the triple jump of 4-6.75 while placing seventh. Senior Wu notched himself a season-best mark of 22-9.00 in the long jump at the Valentine Invitational (2/11). The Tenafly, N.J. native is UMass' most versatile jumper, having competed in the triple, long, and high jumps in 2012.
Patrick McAllister continued his streak of success in the 5000 meter run at the A-10 Championships (2/17). The senior harrier crossed the line at 15:17.14 while taking home 13th place.
The Giegengack Invitational (2/4) brought the first 3K competition to the track for the first time this season for the Minutemen. Antony Taylor collected second place in his first ever participation in the event with a time of 8:33.66. Also in action in a distance event was Thomas Mullen who pushed his way through to a second place finish in 4:15.69 in the mile run, notching a New England Championship qualifying mark.
With career-best times in their sights, Patrick McGowan and Michael Giardina came through for UMass in the mile run as well at the Giegengack Invitational (2/4). With readouts of 4:18.54 and 4:19.67, the duo placed consecutively sixth and seventh at the Cox Cage in New Haven, Conn.
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 comprised of Patrick McAllister and Michael Giardina, who reeled off new personal records in their respective distance events. The former of the two registered a time of 15:05.34 in the 5K. Giardina 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).
Koncki Aims For National Meet
The next task on Koncki's list will be qualifying for the NCAA Regional Championships. By setting the school record with a jump of 7.32 meters, Koncki is now 0.69 meters away from reaching the NCAA automatic qualifying standard of 8.00 meters. Currently, Koncki's career-best readout falls 1.50 inches short of ranking in the top-48 nationally.
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. 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.
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.