UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Abdul, Morales, Lead Track Team to Success


Courtesy of Beacons Athletics




The track team, despite being one of the most successful on campus and the only team in UMass Boston history to win a national championship, sometimes slips through the cracks when it comes to campus sports. Their schedule, which consists of large regional meets rather than matches or games against other schools, is partly to blame, as well as the fact that they never host meets on campus due to the dilapidated condition of the campus track.

The campus’ lack of awareness hasn’t stopped the track team from having yet another stellar season, led by high school teammates and co-captains Hamza Abdul and Henry Morales. School records and personal bests are falling at every meet, and Morales is training for a decathlon time that will most likely shatter his own UMass record. The two captain’s tenures will certainly go down as some of the best in the history of the program, and they recently spoke with the Mass Media about their four years here.

The team has had to battle through some adversity. They are currently without their coach, Cossandria Walker, who is on maternity leave. Josh Quinnie and Kebba Nasso, two stars from last year, haven’t been able to compete this year. Abdul said “(losing them) was tough but we got a ton of brand new freshmen talent, and we’re still in the learning stages. It’s funny because the kids that were freshmen last year are the kids that we are teaching to be leaders … we’re giving them as much knowledge as we can, we’re training them as much as we can to take over.” He added, “One of [our] goals coming in was to leave something good. It’s the same way we left our high school. After we won a championship for the first time in school history together, they won another four or five in a row. That’s what we’re going for here. We’re trying to leave as much as we can here.”

The program has undoubtedly felt Abdul and Morales’ impact. They’ve morphed from a perennial non-contender into a regular podium occupier. According to Abdul, “What a lot of people don’t know is that our outdoor team is nationally ranked. We have five or six people up there in the top 20 nationally right now.” This season, the jumps have been the strengths of the group. Abdul said, “It’s been Henry on the long jump, me on the triple jump, and our high jumpers, especially Jahlil Moise, have really been up there.” Morales added, “Usually we get first, second, or third in the triple jump and our high jumpers usually place in the top eight.”

While the men’s side was stellar last year, the women have been the brightest spot for the team this year. Renee O’Brien, who specializes in the high jump, has had a fantastic freshman year, and was recently named LEC Rookie of the Week. Anitra Kloczewiak set her personal bests in the shotput and hammer throw at the Tufts Invitational on March 30th. Hillary McGuffie has been another amazing freshman, specializing in the 400 meter. In fact, last year, the women’s 4×100 relay team finished second on the east coast last year. Abdul said, “Everything has taken an interesting turn … the guys had a great season last year but this is more of the girls’ season.”

At the Tufts Invitational, the team had arguably the greatest meet in the last decade. They set a combined 44 personal bests. The men’s team grabbed 2nd place from over 40 competing schools, and the women finished 11th. Abdul said, “That’s the first thing we teach (the younger athletes), they need to go hard everyday … for us to get those results, its really good.”

The team has competed all over the northeast, and has made giant strides since the two captains first arrived in 2009. They are set up for long-term success with a glut of freshman talent to compliment some passionate, experienced, upperclassmen. Morales has set 12 UMass Boston records just this year. He was modest when asked about it. He said, “I don’t try to break the records, I just try to be myself and it can happen, I just try to go up there and do my best.” Morales’ best seems to be more than good enough, as he is preparing to leave behind a legacy as one of the most successful track stars in campus history.

Morales and Abdul are thrilled with the legacy that they’ll leave behind. Abdul said, “We want somebody to lead the team that will be much better than us. When we first came here, we were getting sixth place at conference meets, and now we’re working our asses off to get 2nd or 3rd place.”He added, “When we leave, we want someone to be better than us so we can get first place, so we can get those championships.”

Morales added, “Even though we’re going to be gone, we’re the ones who set the tempo, we set the standard. I remember looking at some of the men’s records and thinking ‘oh, that’s attainable, we can get that’, but now we’re leaving the mark at a place where people know that they need to work their ass off to get that record.”

“For example, Carl Joseph just set the school record for the high jump at 7’1, it’ll take a lot to top that; someone is going to have to really give it there all,” Abdul said.

All told, these two veterans have left a fantastic impact with the Beacons, and hopefully the track team will be able to maintain all of this success when they’re gone.