NORTH KINGSTON, R.I. -
The UMass women's indoor track and field team is beginning their 2012 season this weekend at the Sorlein Invitational in North Kingston, R.I. The Sorlein Invitational is the first of nine meets this indoor season, including the NCAA Indoor Championships. The Minutewomen will set the tone for UMass when they compete on Friday with the men waiting to compete on Saturday. The Sorlein Invitational begins at 10:30 a.m.
Roa Looks to Continue Collegiate Success
Karen Roa enters the season as a strong leader on and off the track with hopes of adding to her list of credentials. The senior out of Jamaica, N.Y. already holds the UMass all-time record in both the distance medley relay and the steeplechase. This season, Roa aims to take hold of records in the 3,000 meter and 5,000 meter run.
Roa had a strong 2010-11 campaign, making her way into the UMass record books during yet another season. The long distance runner placed third at the New England Championships in the 3,000 meter run with a time of 9:49.38. This earned her the fourth all-time honors for that event at UMass. Roa's performance at the Giengengack Invitational was good enough for second place overall and fifth place all-time at UMass with a time of 17:30.77 in the 5,000 meter run. The Empire State native was accompanied by fellow senior Claire Pettit at the A-10 Championships when they combined to lead their distance medley relay team to a third place finish with a time of 11:49.64. The time was good enough for second best all-time in UMass history.
Seniors Making Their Mark
Although the 2012 senior class is a small one, it does not lack talent. Four-of-five seniors were New England Championship qualifiers last indoor season and set UMass all-time records.
Mid Distance runner, Deanna Julian, made her presence known last season at the New England Championships, where she placed third overall and fifth all-time with a time of 1:15.70 in the 500 meter run. Claire Pettit and Karen Roa contributed to the second best all-time record for the distance medley relay at the A-10 Championships. Additionally, Roa set three records in last year's indoor season. Chrissy Silvar was another upper classman that showed off her strength last season, in the pole vault at the Giegengack Invite with a distance of 11-03.75. The mark was good enough for fifth best in UMass history.
Juniors Leading The Way For Throwers
Making a name for themselves in UMass history are juniors, Nalis Mbianda and Rachelle Bourque. The two throwers were New England qualifiers in the shot put last season and strong competitors in the weight throw. Mbianda displayed her talents by recording the second best mark in UMass history and Bourque with a record fourth best, both records coming in the indoor shot put.
Junior thrower Nalis Mbianda looks to build off a strong 2011 campaign. Mbianda placed in the top-10 in six-of-seven indoor meets last season. She will be competing against her former teammate Lisa Wilson this season in the UMass record books by trying to claim the best shot put distance in UMass history.
Last year the Newton, Mass. native, Mbianda, shined at the Valentine Invitational when she took second place overall with a distance of 44-11.50, a distance good enough for second best all-time at UMass. That distance also qualified her for the New England and ECAC Championships.
Alongside Mbianda in the shot put is fellow junior Rachelle Bourque. The thrower out of Rowley, Mass. had a very strong 2011 campaign with four-of-seven performances qualifying her for the New England Championships.
Bourque looks to improve her shot put marks to move up from fourth in the UMass record books. Rachelle claimed fourth all-time in the indoor shot put at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games on January 29. The junior also placed sixth at the Giengengack Invitational, ninth at the Great Dane Invitational, and eighth at the A-10 Championships.
Newcomers Ready To Make An Impact
Twenty five newcomers join the track and field squad this indoor season. Nine of the freshmen have already gotten a taste of college athletics this fall, as members of the Minutewomen cross country team. One of those runners is harrier, Hannah White. The Holden, Mass. native had a solid first season with her best performance coming at the Rothenberg Race where she placed sixth on the team and 24th overall. White attended high school at Notre Dame Academy where she claimed the school record for the indoor and outdoor two mile run.
Another freshman runner that competed in the fall who is about to begin her first track and field season is Rachel Hilliard. Hilliard had a very impressive fall, placing in the top four on the team in each of her seven meets. Her best performance was at the A-10 Championships where she placed second on the team and 52nd overall with a time of 18:58.9. The runner out of Hookstown, Pa. holds six school records at South Side High School in the 400, 800, 1,600, and 3,200 meter events.
One of the most touted members of the class of 2016 is Ashley Palmer out of Phoenix, N.Y. Ashley holds 14 school records at Phoenix High School where she competed in sprints and jumps. Some of her records are in the 55, 100, and 200 meter dashes. She also holds the record in the 55 meter hurdle, long and triple jump. Palmer was named the Oswego Country Girls Track and Field MVP her sophomore, junior, and senior years.
Minutewomen In Good Hands
Positioning the Minutewomen for success are head coach, Julie LaFreniere and assistants David Jackson and Darcy Wilson. LaFreniere is entering her 25th season as head coach of UMass women's cross country and track and field teams. Both Jackson and Wilson are beginning their third season as UMass assistants.
Julie LaFreniere has been the head coach of the Minutewomen since 1987 and graduated from UMass in 1977. The Gardner Mass. native competed for the cross country and track and field squads in her collegiate years and set school records in the half-mile and mile. She was also named MVP of the cross country and track and field team her junior and senior season. LaFrenier has coached four NCAA qualifiers in the sport of track and field. Adding on to her list of achievements she has claimed two outdoor A-10 titles, two indoor A-10 titles, and has been named Coach of the Year by the A-10 three times.
The long time head coach is assisted by David Jackson and Darcy Wilson. Both coaches are entering their third season with UMass and both have made an impact in their short time with the team.
David Jackson is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo in 1998 and has been an assistant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Roberts Wesleyan College. In his time with the Tar Heels, Jackson coached three All-Americans and four ACC Champions. At Roberts Wesleyan College, Jackson helped claim three NCCAA national titles and coached five NCCAA All-Americans. The assistant has made a significant impact with the Minutewomen, helping UMass graduate Stephanie Aguguo in all her successes. Jackson assisted Aguguo claim a school record in the triple jump, an indoor New England Championship, two Conference Championships, and a NCAA East Region Qualifier.
Assistant Coach, Darcy Wilson is a former assistant coach at Keene State. There she coached several NCAA qualifiers and a NCAA Champion. The Boston University graduate coached students to ECAC and national titles in the men's hammer throw and men's and women's javelin. At UMass, Wilson has helped athletes such as Nalis Mbianda, Rachelle Bourque and Lisa Wilson enter their names into the UMass record books.
Cameron Carter will also be on staff this season as a volunteer assistant coach. Carter was a standout thrower at Colorado State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Kinesiology at UMass.