PRINCETON, N.J. - With a first place finish at the UMass Invitational this past Saturday, the UMass men's track and field team will be looing to carrying the momentum into this weekend's Larry Ellis Invitational on Friday and Saturday. The annual event is a targeted and anticipated one on the Minutemen's schedule, as some of the season's toughest competition will be previewed prior to the A-10 and IC4A Championships later this season. The guns will go off at 4 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Annual Larry Ellis Invitational On Tap
The Minutemen are not newcomers to Princeton University and the Larry Ellis Invitational. Last year, UMass recorded four personal records, of which three were set by returnees Paul Grafov (400 dash), Chris Greene (400 dash), and Aaron Araujo (400M hurdles).
The Larry Ellis Invite always proves to be highly competitive at Weaver Stadium with the Northeast's best teams showing up to compete in Princeton, N.J.
The rebuilding process in the 110 meter hurdles has been expediated this season through the first two weeks of the outdoor campaign. Sophomore standout Stephen Bigelow recorded a personal career-best time of 15.02 in the event in week one of the outdoor campaign (4/7), while capturing his first 110 meter hurdles victory of his career in week two at the UMass Invitational. Bigelow ranks ninth in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Evan Donadt has been the face to watch in the 400 meter hurdles thus far for the Minutemen. The senior's top season time of 54.17 sits fifth-best in the A-10 Conference, and fastest on the UMass squad. His career-best time was reeled off just last spring with a readout of 53.98.
Koncki's Senior Stretch
Senior Zachary Koncki will complete his collegiate track and field career this spring. The Northampton, Mass. native returns from the indoor season after setting the school record in the long jump (24-00.25), along with recording the top mark in UMass history last spring in the outdoor version of the event (23-10.75).
Koncki will have his sights set on the NCAA East Regional Championships this spring, having six meets to qualify for the National Meet.
Apart from the jumps, Koncki comes back as UMass' top 110 meter hurdler following the graduation of Tyler Cotto last year. His top time of 14.78 sits just shy of the Masssachusetts' record book by 0.18 seconds.
McKenna's Monster Throws
Two straight weeks have pushed David McKenna to the top of the rankings on the team in both the hammer and discus throws. His highest finish has came at the UMass Invitational on April 14 with a throw of 139-00 in the discus on Senior Day, taking home third place. Through two meets, McKenna has recorded two top-5 finishes between the two events.
For throws coach Darcy Wilson, David McKenna returns as the leading strongman for the Minutemen in the shot put, hammer throw, and discus throw. The senior's career-bests in each sit at 42-7.50, 160-06, and 149-09.
The young faces comprised of Quinn Ryder and Patrick Farnham have propelled the Minutemen through two weeks of competition in the 100 and 200 meter dashes. Both are tied for 13th in the Atlantic 10 in the 200 meter event with a season-best time of 22.20. Ryder also holds the top season time on the UMass squad, recorded both this past Saturday (4/14) and two weeks ago at the AIC invite (4/7) with a readout of 11.25.
In the 400 meter dash, Aaron Araujo and Paul Grafov have been at the front of the pack for coach Ken O'Brien with the 16th and 19th best A-10 Conference times through the first two weeks. The New Bedford, Mass. native, Araujo, zipped out a readout of 49.78 at the UMass Invite (4/14), marking a new career-best. The North Dartmouth, Mass. native, Grafov, posted his top-season time at the AIC Invite (4/7) by crossing the line at 49.90.
Jumpers Aiming For New Heights
Senior Daniel Wu has provided leadership in two events thus far this spring. In the long jump, Wu was just out-battled last Saturday at the UMass Invite, as the Tenafly, N.J. native placed second with a season-best mark of 44-5.25, placing Wu fifth in the A-10 Conference. In the triple jump, Wu also is UMass' top competitor, with a jump of 44-5.25, ranking 11th in the A-10.
As just a freshman, Gregory Copeland has surged to fourth in the A-10 Conference in the men's pole vault with a season-best height of 14-9.00. Through the first two weeks of his inaugural collegiate outdoor campaign, the versatile jumper has recorded two top-5 finishes including ranking third at the UMass Invite on April 14.
Freshman Wesley Calhoun and junior AJ Grube provided depth for coach O'Brien in the jumping events this indoor season, and will see action this spring as well. Grube's holds the top-season mark on the UMass squad in the high jump with a personal record height of 6-3.25 this past Saturday at home (4/14).
Last spring, UMass was able to reel off five top-3 finishes between the 4x100 and 4x400 meter relays. Returning from those quads are Chris Greene, Ted Greene, Conor Megee, Quinn Ryder, Zach Hildenbrandt, Paul Grafov, Michael McDonough, Tom Mullen, and Nick Otis. The fastest of the 4x100 relay times from 2011 stood at 42.43 set by C. Greene, T. Greene, Ryder, and Tyler Cotto (graduated) on April 9. In the 4x400 event, Grafov, Hildenbrandt, Otis, and McDonough combined for a readout of 3:24.19 on April 16.
The best of the 4x800 meter relay times came on May 7 last spring with an IC4A qualifying time of 7:28.22. Mullen as well competed on that team, along with current junior Joe Doyle.
Since arriving on campus, Thomas Mullen has solidified himself as one to watch out for in the coming years. His top-season time in the 800 meter run ranks ninth in the A-10 at 1:53.84, recorded last Saturday at the UMass Invitational (4/14). Jared Reddy was also a speedy sophomore at the home opener, as he logged a personal record time of 3:56.81 while placing second in the 1500 meter run. Reddy's time is top on the UMass squad and ranks 19th in the A-10.
It was a freshman leading the way in the 800 meter run at the AIC Invite (4/7) as Stephen Ness, out of Plymouth, Mass., placed fifth in 1:59.36.
Doyle is the fastest returning 800 meter athlete, holding a career-best time of 1:53.52, which is about two seconds away from the UMass record book. The junior has ran in both the 800 and 1500 meter runs through two weeks of the outdoor campaign.
Distance Core Goes Long
Roommates Patrick McGowan and Antony Taylor combined to take home the top two spots in the 5K at the AIC Invite (4/7) with times of 14:45.02 and 14:57.24. Taylor's time was a new personal record. The readouts rank 13th and 20th in the Atlantic 10 Conference as of the week of April 16.
Seven of the 12 distance harriers for UMass will be returnees, with five newcomers being added to the squad this season. Leading the way are standouts from the cross country and indoor campaigns in the forms of Antony Taylor, Patrick McAllister, and Patrick McGowan.
McAllister returns as just one-of-three to have ran the 10K last outdoor season, and the only Minuteman back from that trio. The senior posted a season-best time of 31:05.65 on May 7, 2011 and qualified himself for the IC4A Championships last spring.
A-10's At Home
For the second time in three years, the Minutemen will host the Atlantic 10 Championships at the UMass Track and Field Complex. This will be the second-of-two home meets this spring with the UMass Invitational being held on April 14.
When UMass last hosted the Conference Meet back in 2010, Ken O'Brien's squad faired quite well, finishing fourth overall with 104 points. A-10 Championship central with the meet schedule, facility records, and A-10 Championship records can be found by clicking here.
O'Brien Pulling The Reigns
With head coach Ken O'Brien returning for his 45th season at the helm of the men's track and field program as 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.