Men's Cross Country

Championship Season Commences For MXC

Zachary Florence

Zachary Florence

Oct. 5, 2011

BOSTON, Mass. - Bound for the Massachusetts state capital is the UMass men's cross country team this Saturday for the New England Championships. The meet is slated to take place at Franklin Park, set to begin at 1:15 p.m The race marks the commencement of a four meet championships season for the Minutemen ranging from New England's through the IC4A Championships on November 19.

Last Time Out
The annual Paul Short Invitational (9/30) took place at Lehigh University where the Minutemen placed 27th as a team in a field of 45 squads. Included in the race were national powerhouses, #4 Oklahoma, #12 Princeton, and #15 Syracuse, just to name a few.

Leading UMass for a second consecutive meet was Sean Duncan, who also was tabbed the A-10 Male Cross Country Performer of the Week. The Gardner, Mass. native placed 86th in 25:28. Following the graduate student was senior Patrick McAllister (25:48), sophomores Patrick McGowan (25:53) and Antony Taylor (26:06), and freshman Michael Giardina (26:42).

Around The Atlantic 10
For the first time in 2011, a UMass Minuteman garnered a weekly league award as Sean Duncan was tabbed the Male Cross Country Performer of the Week on October 3. The Gardner, Mass. native led his team for a second consecutive week, while placing higher at the annual Paul Short Invite than any Minuteman has since 2009.

Also being honored was Tim Zellmer of Saint Louis as the Male Rookie Performer of the Week.

Through the weekend of October 1 and 2, the most scored races that any A-10 team has competed are four (Fordham, St. Bonaventure, and Xavier). Duquesne and Saint Louis top the conference with undefeated records, as the Dukes have posted two first place team finishes, while the Bilikens have recorded one.



The Richmond Spiders enter the fall campaign as the reigning A-10 Champions on both the men's and women's sides. Through two races, the Spiders have posted two second place team finishes.

Fresh Outlook
Coming at the nationally recognized Paul Short Invitational (9/30), freshman Michael Giardina was the sole newcomer to place in the team's top five in the 8K competition. The Lowell, Mass. native took home 240th with a time of 26:42.

For the second consecutive meet at the Minuteman Invitational (9/17), junior and newcomer John O'Shea placed in the team's top five, while taking 15th overall in 23:10.93.

Two newcomers made their way into team's top five at the season's opening meet in Smithfield, R.I (9/10). For the men, junior John O'Shea and Michael Giardina placed third and fourth on the team respectively while taking 26th and 28th overall.

UMass brings seven new competitors to the team this fall, with six of them being freshman. Apart from the first year harriers, Ken O'Brien has added John O'Shea as a current junior, and Benjamin Mears as a graduate student. Mears ran for the Amherst College Lord Jeffs and was a member of the 2007 12th place team at the Div. III Cross Country Nationals.

The freshman quintet consists of Zachary Florence (East Longmeadow, Mass.), John Mantia (Mansfield, Mass.), Michael Giardina (Lowell, Mass.), Curtis Owen (Boxborough, Mass.), and John Ryan (Westford, Mass.).

Schedules Set
The Minutemen opened the 2011 campaign at the Bryant University Invitational (9/10), where no team scores were kept. Antony Taylor led the squad for the first time in his career while placing 14th overall in 22:54.79.

On September 17, Ken O'Brien's squad 48 points while placing second at the home hosted Minuteman Invite in Amherst. UConn was the top performing squad, with 44 points. Following the meet at home, UMass traveled to Bethlehem, Pa. for the annual Paul Short Invitational, where the Minutemen brought home a respectable 27th place (801 points) in a field of 45 squads. Included in the mix were the likes of #4 Oklahoma, #12 Princeton, and #15 Syracuse, just to name a few.

Championship season commences with the New England Meet on October 8 with the sole trip of the season to Franklin Park for UMass. The Atlantic 10 Championship follows about two weeks later on October 29 in Charlotte, N.C., the same site of the 2011 A-10 Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

The final championship meet of the season comes at the NCAA Regionals in the Amherst of a different state, Amherst, N.Y. on November 12. Concluding the 2011 campaign is the IC4A Championship Meet in Van Cortlandt Park on November 19.

Sensational Sophomores
Roommates Patrick McGowan and Antony Taylor were at it once again together at the Paul Short Invitational (9/30). The former of the second year duo placed third on the team and 155th overall with a time of 25:53, while Taylor followed in 181st and fourth on the team in 26:06.

At the home hosted Minuteman Invitational (9/17) sophomores Antony Taylor and Patrick McGowan were among the top five finishers for UMass. The roommates locked in marks of 22:54.79 and 22:55.68, while placing consecutively tenth and 11th overall and third and fourth on the team.

In the season's opener at the Bryant University Invitational (9/10), Antony Taylor posted his first career first place team finish, by crossing the line at 15:46.29 in the 5K race. Behind Taylor was Jared Reddy in 16:26.70, good enough for fifth on the squad and 32nd overall.

For Ken O'Brien, the stellar sophomore class comprised of Patrick McGowan, Jared Reddy, Paul Merriman, Dan Joyce, and Antony Taylor returns to help propel UMass. McGowan holds the highest top five team finish of any freshman last year as he placed second on the squad at the IC4A Championships with a time of 26:13.4.

Hearty Harriers
Despite many young faces the Minutemen are returning several of last season's strongest harriers to this year's squads.

A familiar race for the veterans on the UMass team came at the annual Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, Pa. on September 30. Sean Duncan and Patrick McAllister were at the forefront of the race for the Minutemen once again, taking home 86th and 139th respectively with times of 25:28 and 25:48. This is the second consecutive meet in which the upper class duo has placed first and second back-to-back.

Sean Duncan and Patrick McAllister made their 2011 debuts at the Minuteman Invitational (9/17) as the upper class duo stole the top two spots for UMass, while placing third and ninth overall with times of 22:16.91 and 22:49.20.

Andrew Erwin was the sole returning upper classman to finish in the team's top five at the season's opener (9/10). The Mansfield, Mass. native finished with a time of 16:02.64, good enough for second on the team and 23rd overall.

In the form of leadership and strong performances, seniors Andrew Erwin and Patrick McAllister know the level of competition they will face. McAllister led UMass in two meets in 2010 including at the IC4A and New England Championships. Erwin finished the season with two top five team finishes, coming at the IC4A and New England meets as well.

Graduate student Sean Duncan also returns a leader for UMass. Duncan did not compete in 2010, but did record three top five team finishes in 2009, including placing second on the squad at the UMass Five-Way Meet (9/19/09). The Gardner, Mass. native was also an NCAA Regional Qualifier in the steeple chase during outdoor track and field last spring.

Experience At The Helm
There is no lack of leadership for UMass this fall as renowned leader Ken O'Brien returns for his 45th season, marking the longest tenured cross country coach in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Ranking closest to O'Brien in the A-10 are Tom Dewey at Fordham and URI's John Copeland, each with 30 years at the helm.

In O'Brien's 42 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 when O'Brien brought home his first A-10 Coach of the Year award.

O'Brien started his first full-time coaching job at the University of Bridgeport (Conn.) in the fall of 1965. Nine months later he guided the program that had never scored a single point in the Collegiate Track Conference Meet to a second-place team finish. He returned to his alma mater in 1966 and served as an assistant coach for 18 months under Bill Footnick before taking over as head coach in 1968.

While an undergrad at UMass, O'Brien won six letters in cross country and track. He competed as a top performer on a cross country squad that won three consecutive Yankee Conference titles and the 1961 New England championship. An outstanding competitor in track and field, his 1:52:70 conference half-mile record remained unbroken for 10 years.

O'Brien, the co-recipient of the ECAC Merit Award in 1963 to the outstanding student-athlete at UMass, graduated with honors from the school of physical education in the same year.

Upon graduation, he served two years as a graduate assistant coach at Ohio University. He worked under the legendary coach, and member of the Track and Field Hall of Fame, Stan Huntsman, earning his Master's degree in 1964 from the Athens, Ohio, institution.

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.

In his spare time, he is a golf and baseball enthusiast and coached a Little League team in Amherst for 23 years.


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