Last weekend proved that 2014 is indeed off to a great start. Artie and I spent all day Saturday coaching our athletes at the Kevin Dare Invitational at PSU. Four of my girls met the state meet qualifying standard in the mile and 800, and the 4×800 relay placed 2nd with an incredibly exciting finish and also a state meet qualifier. At 5pm the meet concluded and we felt like it was a long day at that point. We were exhausted but somehow found it in us to tackle the second half of our day; driving through the night to Amherst, MA for my induction on Sunday into the UMass Hall of Fame.
I was notified of the honor in October so I’ve been counting down the days and waiting in anticipation since then. The whole day Sunday was pretty incredible. It started with a men’s basketball pre-game reception in The Massachusetts Room at the Mullins Center. The walls were covered with beautiful plaques of all the hall of fame members throughout UMass history. I was really taken by the older plaques which were done by a commissioned artist whose work was beautiful. If UMass ever decides to go back to the old format I would love to get in line for that job! At the reception we met the other five inductees for this class and a lot of the alumni club members that were there to watch the game. We also finally met Jason Germain. Jason organized the event and has been in touch with all of the inductees, via phone and other social media, about preparing for the event since October, thanks Jason! After all of that, we went down to our seats for the game against Fordham. We had floor seats which was super cool to be so up close to the players and all the action. At half time they called us out to the court to be recognized. I have to be honest that it was hard not to feel a tiny bit like a rock star at that moment. UMass dominated Fordham and showed they are a top 25 team. What a game!
After the game we made our way up to the campus center and student union to get ready for the banquet and induction ceremony. I haven’t been back to UMass in about ten years so walking through campus and seeing all the changes and things that are still the same was a total trip. I was excited with everything I saw. At the campus center we met up with my family, my UMass teammates, and coach Julie LaFreniere. Catching up with Julie and my old teammates meant so, so much to me. Since moving to Pennsylvania ten years ago it’s been really hard for me to stay connected. If I’m home visiting my parents I’m usually trying to juggle my training with recovering from the travel or a race in New England that I might be there for. Sadly, visiting my friends always seems to get pushed back. Luckily we all went out after the banquet and spent some more time together. It was so much fun to be with them, catching up and telling stories about our days at good old UMass. I felt a little sad afterwards because I miss them dearly.
The induction ceremony was just incredible. Apparently it was the largest turnout they’ve ever had for a Hall of Fame induction dinner. All of the inductees sat perched up on a head table and we were treated like royalty. Each inductee had a short video biography that was shown before each of our speeches. I was no doubt a tiny bit nervous about the speech part. Once I got up there I ended up being more excited than nervous so I think it went well enough. The whole event was such a tremendous honor and it will certainly be something I’ll continue to feel for the rest of my life.
We stayed in Amherst that night so we could do a run the next day through my old stomping ground and meet up with Julie and also meet the girls on the team. The run was wild; going by my old dorm, seeing the new Fine Arts Center, and stopping at the track offices at “The Cage” and chatting with men’s coach, Ken O’Brien. We met up with Julie for lunch at the Hampshire dining hall. All I can say is “wow!” That place was not what it was when I was there, that’s for sure. UMass is now ranked #3 in the country for food services and it certainly lives up to that. Julie laughed because I guess I shrugged a little when she first mentioned we could eat at one of the dining halls. I think she knew I had no idea what it’s become. Anyway, it was so nice to catch up some more with Julie and chat about track and coaching at the high school and collegiate level and how UMass has changed.
After the mind blowing lunch at Hampshire, we walked over to the cage and track offices to meet the girls. They were all so friendly and very much interested in learning about my experiences both at UMass and after, and I was really interested to hear all about their experiences too. The girls were excited that I was a Haute Volee for Oiselle athlete and love the company and what it’s about. I think we could have talked for hours and hours. Meeting with Julie and those girls was something I will never forget and I can’t thank them enough for making the weekend even more special than it already was.
We hit the road at about 5pm with a six and a half hour drive ahead of us. I think the whole drive Artie and I talked about the weekend and how great it was. I’m really hoping to be back in May for our women’s track alumni weekend at the A-10 Championships. Go UMass!
UMass put together a nice highlight video: