The Minutewomen left North Kingston, R.I. with four first place finishers and four New England qualifiers after the 2012 season opener. Taking first place for the Minutewomen was seniors Deanna Julian and Karen Roa, along with juniors Katherine Finnegan and Nalis Mbianda.
Julian had the best time in the 800 meter run clocking in at 2:17.79, making her a New England Championship qualifier. Roa was the fastest in the mile, also qualifying for the New England Championships with a time of 5:01.58.
In the field events, Finnegan placed first overall in the long jump with a distance of 17-00.50. Mbianda also placed first and was a New England qualifier in the shot put. Not far behind and placing second overall in the shot put was junior thrower, Rachelle Bourque. Bourque posted a distance of 42-02.75, adding her name to the list of NEC qualifiers.
Seniors Lead The Way in Season Opener
Senior jumpers, Rebecca Banker and Katherine Finnegan highlighted the team's first meet of the season in Kingston, R.I. at the GoRhody Invitational. Banker tied her indoor career best mark of 5-feet, 5-inches which stands as the fourth-best all-time at UMass. The height also landed her first in the meet. Finnegan finished first in the long jump with a mark of 18-feet, 3.75-inches and shattered her former personal best record in the indoor long jump of 17-feet, 3.25-inches. Her personal best also qualified her for the New England Championships in the event.
Another jumper to qualify for New Englands was sophomore, Ashley Palmer. The Phoenix, N.Y. native leaped a 36-foot, 7-inch mark to land in second place in the triple jump and qualified for the NECs. Palmer also finished second in the long jump with a distance of 17-feet, 7.5 inches.
The final UMass athlete to qualify for the New England Championships in the season opener was Nalis Mbianda. The senior thrower threw 41-feet, 9.25 inches in the shot put and placed third overall.
2012 In Review
The 2012 season was one to remember for the UMass women's track and field squad. The team bid farewell to five talented seniors that accounted for 15 individual all-time records at UMass. At the same time the team introduced 17 members of the class of 2015 that made the biggest impact, reassuring that although the team was losing five of it's most talented competitors, the future is still bright for the Minutewomen. Over the course of the entire season UMass claimed one New England Championship, one A-10 Conference Championship and set 12 new UMass all-time individual records.
Rachelle Bourque was the team's sole A-10 Champion, winning gold in the javelin toss. The following week a senior, junior and two freshmen would create some noise in the New England Championships, assisting in the team's respectable fourth place finish. Claire Pettit, Meghan Leahy, Courtney Neves and Katie Powers all ran the second best time in UMass history to claim the gold in the 4x800 meter relay. The championship was the team's first gold medal in the New England Championships since Rachelle Bourque won the javelin in 2010 as a freshman.
The season was also highlighted by the emergence of Rebecca Stoyle. The sophomore set the third best mark in UMass outdoor history and the fourth best mark in indoor competition in her freshman season last year, both records coming in the A-10 Championships.
DeVincent has brought depth and versatility to the team's throwing events in her UMass career. The senior battled injury in the outdoor season in 2012, but has been consistent as well as efficient in just about every throwing event. DeVincent has qualified for New Englands in the shot put and the weight throw, and has been the team's leader in the hammer and discus events over the past three seasons.
Baldwin is the team's top returning sprinter this season. The Andover, Mass. native qualified for New Englands in the 100 meter dash, claiming the team's top times in both indoor and outdoor competition in 2012.
One of the most versatile and talented athletes on the UMass squad is Murphy. The junior has competed in the heptathlon as well as the pentathlon at an elite level, making her way to the New England Championships for a ninth place finish in the pentathlon and has scored 3637 points in the A-10 Championships during the heptathlon. Murphy has also led the team in the 100 meter hurdles.
A key contributor in hurdles and relays in her time as a Minutewoman has been Saccardo over the past two seasons. The junior has been consistent, qualifying for New Englands in the 400 meter hurdles both seasons while also turning in strong performances in relays and sprints.
Michelle Jenssen has imbedded herself in the UMass record books four times over the course of three years as a Minutewoman. Individually, the senior sits fourth all-time with a time of 1:15.65 in the indoor 500 meter run. Most recently Jenssen teamed up teammates in the 4x400 meter relay for a time of 3:52.74, good enough for fifth all-time in indoor competition. Most impressively the senior has made a name for herself in the indoor distance medley relay, accounting for the top two performances in UMass history. As a freshman herself Gina Perno, Karen Roa and Courtney Baldwin ran a program best time of 11:49.37. The following year Claire Pettit, Perno, Roa, and Jenssen recorded the second best time in program history with a time of 11:49.64.
The team's top competitor in the high jump was Rebecca Banker, leaping a season best height of 5-1 at the AIC Invitational in last year's outdoor season. Banker currently holds the fourth best mark in UMass history for the high jump with a height of 5-5, a mark set back in 2011.
Katherine Finnegan was Coach Jackson's best athlete in the long jump as well as a New England qualifier. The Harvard, Mass. native set three of the top four marks of the outdoor season for UMass with her best distance of 18-3 coming at the A-10 Championships and in the UMass Invitational.
Emma Riedel is one of Coach LaFreniere's top returning sprinters in 2013. Riedel qualified for New Englands in the outdoor season and posted a season best 12.50 in the 100 meter dash.
Throwing The Distance, And Then Some
One area where the Minutewomen have been strong the past three seasons have been in their throwing events. Thanks to seniors Nalis Mbianda, Rachelle Bourque and Kaylee DeVincent the team has been able to count on quality performances week-to-week.
Mbianda and Bourque have been standouts since their freshman year with Bourque claiming a New England Championship in the javelin and Mbianda making her way into the record books in the shot put. Mbianda sits in second place in UMass history in the indoor and outdoor shot put chasing her former mentor and teammate, Lisa Wilson. Bourque has the all-time record in the javelin throw as well as the fourth best marks in the indoor and outdoor shot put. DeVincent battled injury last season but has been a New England qualifier in the weight throw and brings depth in the shot put.
Sophomores On The Fast Track
In 2012 the women's track and field squad benefitted from a strong freshman class, many of them making an immediate impact contributing in the team's success. This year's sophomores accounted for one New England Championship gold medal and six new UMass records, many of their best performances coming in the spotlight of a championship meet.
In the Outdoor New England Championships, sophomores Katie Powers and Courtney Neves assisted in the team's first gold medal in the New England Championships since 2010. 2010 was also the last time a freshman won a gold medal in the New England Championships. Powers anchored Neves, Claire Pettit, Meghan Leahy in the 4x800 meter relay, crossing the finish line at 9:00.01. The time also ranks second all-time at UMass in the outdoor 4x800 meter relay. Pettit and Powers ran the previous week at the A-10 Championships with Meghan Leahy and Deanna Julian and landed themselves fourth in UMass history in the 4x800 meter relay with a time of 9:01.95. The pair also recorded the second best time in the 4x800 meter relay in indoor competition at the ECAC Championships when they completed the relay in 9:07.16 alongside Julian and Sarah Bittermann.
The sophomore with the most individual success last season was triple jump rising star, Rebecca Stoyle. The highly touted Pembroke, Mass. native gave her best performances when it mattered most as a freshman in 2012. Stoyle set the fourth best indoor mark and the third best outdoor mark in the triple jump in UMass history, both records coming in the A-10 Championships. Stoyle leaped 38-4.75 in the Indoor A-10 Conference Championships as well as 39-9.25 in the triple jump in the Outdoor A-10 Conference Championships.
Meghan Landry grabbed some attention as well in her freshman campaign, assisting in the fifth best time of 3:52.74 all-time at UMass in the 4x400 meter relay with Michelle Jenssen, Bittermann, and Leahy.
Two more promising sophomores this season will be Ashley Palmer and Rachel Hilliard. Palmer performed at a high level in a multitude of events and remained consistent throughout her freshman campaign. Palmer appeared in sprints, relays and jumps. Palmer was strongest in the long and triple jump, qualifying for New Englands in both events. Hilliard will produce in long distance events as she has been a standout on the cross country team for two seasons now. Hilliard placed in the top four in every meet this season, with five top two performances.
New Faces Reassure Bright Future
After a strong season from the freshman class last year Coach LaFreniere and Coach Jackson have high hopes for the 11 freshmen the team has brought in for 2013, two of which have already gained some collegiate athletics experience during the cross country season this past fall.
Carly Zinner stood out in the results not only in the group of freshmen but on the entire team. Zinner fought for the top spot each week with teammates Rachel Hilliard and Sarah Barrett, finishing first in three meets and never finishing lower than third. Molly McMahon also gained experience this fall, claiming three top four finishes on the team. Fellow freshman Corrine Bonder was on the roster but red-shirted the season. However Bonder will compete this spring.
Katie Osborne has caught the eye of coaches as another athlete with a multitude of talents, with her best event perhaps being the high jump. Her personal best height of 5-5 already matches the personal best of Rebecca Banker, who is currently slated in fourth for the best mark in UMass history in the high jump. The mark of 5-5 is also just an 1.5" away from tying the second best mark in UMass history and an inch away from the third best all-time mark.
Kelsey Crawford is another all-around standout freshman for the Minutewomen that will compete in an array of events but will see most of her early success in the shot put. The freshman enters her collegiate career with a personal best 40-8.5 and will have the benefit of competing with Nalis Mbianda and Rachelle Bourque, two of the best to compete in the shot put in program history.
Tiffany Williams will bring a lot of speed to the Minutewomen and is a native of Peoria, Arizona where she attended Sandra Day O'Connor High School. Williams was a top three finisher in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash at the Arizona State Championships and was a North West Region Champion in the 400 meter run and long jump.
Going The Extra Mile In The Classroom
This past summer the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) honored UMass along with 171 other Division I women's track and field programs with a 3.0 GPA or higher in the spring semester of 2012. Out of every Division I women's track and field team in the nation UMass had the 46th best GPA with a 3.34. Duke University recorded the highest GPA with a 3.58.
19 of Julie LaFreniere's student athletes were named in the A-10 Spring Commissioner's Honor Roll for maintaining a 3.5 GPA or better in the 2012 spring semester and 2012 graduate, Claire Pettit received the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSida) Academic All-District award for her academic excellence as well as her performance on the track.