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Track & Field Stars Enjoy Exclusive Commencement

MacDonald, Zielinski Busy at NCAA Championship

Angus MacDonald, Chancellor Meehan, Ashley Zielinski
Senior Angus MacDonald, Chancellor Marty Meehan and Senior Ashley Zielinski

By Chris O’Donnell

For most people, missing a college graduation after toiling four-plus years is inconceivable. But when it conflicts with the NCAA Championship, it is a legitimate excuse.

Such was the case for UMass Lowell senior Ashley Zielinski of Manchester, N.H. and graduate Angus MacDonald of Methuen, who were competing at the NCAA Track and Field Championship in Pueblo, Colo., May 24-26.

Zielinski and MacDonald were part of a belated private commencement ceremony last Monday afternoon with Chancellor Marty Meehan at UMass Lowell’s Inn & Conference Center.

“If you were to ask any of our kids, they would prefer to be at the NCAA Championship and enjoy the private commencement ceremony afterward,” said head coach Gary Gardner. “We’re so thankful to Chancellor Meehan to be a part of this ceremony.” 

The only drawback to missing the May 26th ceremony was the address by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar. Zielinski and MacDonald were among University-record 2,900 graduates this spring.

As commencement concluded on the 26th, MacDonald was concluding a magnificent career. He earned All-American honors for the 10th time in his career when he placed sixth in the 1,500 meters in 4:15.59.

MacDonald, who earned his undergraduate degree in 2011, was also part of an exclusive ceremony last season along with teammate Donte Brown.

Zielinski enjoyed a somewhat bittersweet experience at the NCAAs, her first in an individual event. She set a school record in the 400 meter hurdles preliminary with a time of 13.90 seconds – edging the previous mark of 13.95 by Erica Towlson in 1999 – but fell just short of qualifying for the final by one place and a mere 0.01 seconds.