Men's Cross Country

Anticipated A-10 Champs Ahead For Men's XC

Antony Taylor will be relied on heavily this weekend at the A-10 Championships.

Antony Taylor will be relied on heavily this weekend at the A-10 Championships.

Oct. 24, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Sitting on two weeks of rested legs, the UMass men's cross country team should be well prepared for this Saturday's Atlantic 10 Championships, slated to take place in Charlotte, N.C. this Saturday. At last year's conference meet, the Minutemen placed third with 112 points. UMass will be looking to repeat upon the A-10 Title performance in 2008.

In Pursuit Of An A-10 Crown
The last time that the Minutemen could call themselves A-10 Champions was back in 2008, when Ken O'Brien's squad took first place for the second time in program history. The first Conference Crown for UMass was brought home in 1995, with a team score of 42 points.

In both 2008 and 1995, O'Brien garnered the A-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year award, along with bringing back gold to Amherst.

The Richmond Spiders enter the fall campaign as the reigning A-10 Champions on both the men's and women's sides. Saint Joseph's was the 2009 first place team.

Last Time Out
In perhaps the best team showing of the fall campaign thus far, the UMass men placed seventh in a field of 39 teams by tallying 264 points. Leading the Minutemen for a third consecutive meet was graduate student Sean Duncan, who placed 12th overall in 25:10.

Through four meets, the Minutemen have recorded two top ten team finishes, including a second place showing at the Minuteman Invitational on September 17.

Rounding out the Amherst scorers were week one leader Antony Taylor, standout sophomores Patrick McGowan and Jared Reddy, and senior Andrew Erwin.



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

Without a doubt, Duncan and McAllister have been the most impressive competitors for UMass through four meets. Duncan has led the Minutemen in all three that he has competed in, while garnering two A-10 Male Cross Country Performer of the Week Awards. McAllister has yet to place below than second on the squad through two meets.

In Duncan's three competitions this fall, he has placed in the top 15 finishers overall in two, including at the Minuteman Invite (third place: 22:16.91) and at the New England Championships (12th place: 25:10).

Senior Andrew Erwin has also added depth for the Minutemen, placing in the team's top five twice through four meets.

Sensational Sophomores
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.

Among three of UMass' five sophomores, ten top five team finishes have been recorded in 2011 thus far. Leading the way with the most is Antony Taylor with four. The Arlington, Mass. native led the Amherst based harriers in one meet, while taking 14th overall (15:46.29) at the Bryant University Invitational on September 17. Patrick McGowan is next best with three top five slots, including two third place team finishes coming at the highly competitive Paul Short Invite (9/30) and New England Championships (10/8).

Rounding out the strong showings thus far for the sensational sophomore class is Jared Reddy, whose best season team finish came in Boston, Mass. (10/8) with a fourth place team finish in 26:14.

Fresh Outlook
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.).

Through four meets in 2011, two newcomers have tallied a total of four top five team finishes. Michael Giardina and John O'Shea have been at the forefront, as each has recorded a fifth place team finish. The freshman, Giardina, has also placed fourth on the team once this fall. By crossing the line at 16:08.55 in week one's 5K, the Lowell, Mass. native placed fourth on the team and 28th overall at Bryant University. O'Shea's other top five team finish came in week one, where the junior harrier placed 26th overall and third on the squad in 16:07.49.

Of note, among four of Ken O'Brien's new additions, nine top seven team finishes have been recorded thus far in 2011.

Schedules Reaching The Peak
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 commenced with the New England Meet on October 8. With a strong team showing, UMass placed seventh in a field of 39 of the Northeast's most competitive squads. Sean Duncan led the Minutemen for a third consecutive meet, as the UMass harriers tallied 264 points.

The Atlantic 10 Championship are slated for this Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., the same site of the 2011 A-10 Outdoor Track and Field Championships. This meet marks the beginning of the final three competitions for the Minutemen in 2011.

The third 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.

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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