Julie LaFreniere has been a part of the foundation of the UMass women’s cross country and track and field teams, playing an instrumental role in both programs’ rise to prominence since the beginning of their existence at Massachusetts.
As a student-athlete LaFreniere helped lead the UMass women’s cross country team to the New England championship and a ninth-place finish at the first AIAW women’s national championship. She left her mark on the Minutewoman squad when she set school records in the half-mile and mile, and received MVP awards for both cross country and track and field in 1976 and 1977.
After graduating from UMass in 1977, LaFreniere held head coaching positions at the high school level for four years. She later returned to UMass to pursue a master’s degree in Sport Management. Upon receiving her graduate degree in 1986, LaFreniere was named the Minutewomen’s head cross country and track & field coach in 1987.
While at the helm of the UMass teams, LaFreniere has accumulated several coaching and team accolades. She was named the Atlantic 10 women’s cross country Coach of the Year six times (1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999) and led the Minutewomen to seven A-10 cross country championships. In 1995, she added an NCAA qualifier to her list of accomplishments when Rebecca Donaghue qualified for the NCAA Championship, finishing 50th in the national competition. Donaghue qualified again in 1996 under LaFreniere’s tutelage. Recently, LaFreniere added another runner to her list of NCAA qualifiers, when Kristin Cisowski competed in the 2000 and 2001 NCAA Cross Country Championship.
In addition to her cross country accomplishments, LaFreniere has also accumulated success in track and field. She led the Minutewomen to their first-ever A-10 outdoor track and field championship in 1999, and was named Atlantic 10 outdoor track and field Coach of the Year in the same season. LaFreniere led the Minutewomen back to another title in 2001, and once again received Coach of the Year honors from the A-10.
LaFreniere has also found success while coaching the UMass indoor track and field team. She was named the 1996 Atlantic 10 indoor track and field Coach of the Year, and led the Minutewomen to A-10 indoor titles in 1996 and 1998. In addition to competing in the Atlantic 10, LaFreniere’s squads have also participated in the New England and ECAC championships. In 1995, she coached the first UMass track and field All-American when Kelly Liljeblad placed fifth in the 10,000M at the NCAA Championship.
LaFreniere was recently inducted into the Gardner (Mass.) High School Athletic Hall of Fame, and currently resides in Orange, Mass.
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