SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 28, 2014

DePlacido Column: Peabody's MacLean shines at UMass Amherst

Jean DePlacido
The Salem News

---- — It didn’t take long for Peabody’s Heather MacLean to make a name for herself at UMass Amherst. The freshman, who was named A-10 Rookie of the Week for the second time earlier this month, set a new school record in the indoor 800 meter event at the Hemery Valentine Invitational with her personal best time of 2:10.48. She finished 13th overall in a tough field of 160 and was third in the Atlantic-10.

MacLean made a smooth adjustment from high school to college. At the league championship in Rhode Island last weekend she finished fourth overall, and has twice been named UMass Athlete of the Week this season.

“The 800 is my best event,” said MacLean. “I always felt comfortable running it in high school, and even though I came to UMass for cross country I will run all three seasons. The school record was 2:12, and it was nice to break it. At the A-10 championship I was the only freshman in my (final) race which felt a little strange.”

MacLean, who won the Division 1 meet champ and was second at All-State in a personal best time of 2:11 in high school, also broke the Peabody High record in that event. Last spring she won the Division 1 600 with a new school record. She was also a high jumper and member of the 4x800 relay team. The Tanners’ MVP as both a junior and senior, she placed 14th at nationals.

Things didn’t get off to a great start this year when an injury cut short her cross country season, but she even surprised herself by bouncing back so quickly.

“I had Achilles tendonitis so I didn’t get to finish my season,” said the psychology major. “I had to cross train a month and get a lot of treatment. I couldn’t do anything hard for a while, but I thought it was going to take me longer to get back to top shape. I had hoped to best my 2:11 high school time this season. Now that I’ve done that I want to finish up strong. We’ve got the New England’s next which is a big one (today and tomorrow).”

At one point in her high school career MacLean wasn’t sure she would continue running in college, but had such an outstanding senior year colleges sought her out.

“I didn’t know if I’d be running until the end of my cross country year,” said MacLean, whose uncle Dave also set many track records at Peabody High. “That’s when Division 1 schools started contacting me. I really like it here and think I’ve made a good transition from high school. The coaches are great, and I’ve made a lot of good friends.

“I’d like to be on the 4x800 relay outdoors. It’s a main event, and we have a New England title. We’ll see what happens because we have a lot of good 800 girls on the team.”

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The honors continue to pour in for Dartmouth College senior and former Masconomet star Abbey D’Agostino. She was named USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week – for the fourth time in her illustrious career. It marked the first during the indoor season after having been selected two times for cross country and once for spring track.

D’Agostino set the 3000 meter record and had the fourth fastest time ever by a collegiate woman (8:51.91) at the Millrose Games at the Armory in New York. That time is also the fastest in the country by almost nine seconds. She was one of only two collegiate women in the field of 14 that included 12 pros, and she finished fourth overall.

D’Agostino broke her own school record. She was named 2013 Division 1 Women’s National Scholar Athlete of the Year for the second straight time in cross country and fifth of her amazing career.

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Peabody track coach Fernando Braz will take an impressive group of athletes to the New Balance Scholastic Nationals at the Armory in New York on March 14-16. Junior Christian Cedullo qualified for the 60 meter dash, and senior Drew Fossa clocked a personal best 9:31 two mile time at All-States with a seventh place finish. Fossa will compete in the two mile at New England’s this weekend.

Fossa is also a member of the 4xmile relay team (qualifying mark of 17:56 achieved through individual performances). He ran a 4:25 mile at the State Coaches Meet, Alex Greco did a personal best 4:25 at the USATFNE meet, Ben Braz had a time of 4:32 at the Division 1 meet, and Ben Manoogian finished in 4:34 at the NEC championship.

The 4x800 relay team of Greco, Cody Picardy, Braz, and Fossa met the qualifying time of 8:08. Junior Marcus Vieira qualified for the 25 pound weight throw with a 53’7” at the USATFNE Open Championship at Harvard. Junior Ariel Ayala qualified for the Emerging Elite category at nationals with a 48’6.5” weight throw at a sanctioned meet at Harvard earlier this week.

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Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at jmdeplacido@aol.com.