UMass Represented by Athletes at Summer Olympics in Tokyo
Four elite athletes with ties to UMass Amherst represented their nations in Tokyo during the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad.
UMass track & field alumna Heather MacLean ‘17, ‘19G capped her trip to the Games in the women’s 1,500 meter run semifinals on Aug. 4 when she posted a time of 4:05:33 to place 12th in her heat and 21st overall.
MacLean, the first-ever Olympian from UMass track & field, ran 4:02.40 to fifth in her opening round heat of the 1,500m two days earlier, the fifth-fastest time overall in the 45-woman field, to earn her spot in the semifinals.
The Peabody, Massachusetts native capped her collegiate career in 2018 by collecting her third All-America accolade after reaching the NCAA semifinals outdoors in the 800 meter run. An NCAA Woman of the Year Top 30 finalist, she won two gold medals and set a meet record, earning Most Outstanding Track Performer honors at the 2018 A-10 Outdoor Championships. In her final season of cross country eligibility in 2017, MacLean became the first UMass women's cross country All-American after finishing 26th at the NCAA Championships and also won her second straight Atlantic 10 individual cross country title in addition to earning an individual title the 2017 New England Championships.
In addition to being a three-time All-American (mile 2016, cross country 2017, outdoor 800m 2018), MacLean was also a four-time NCAA Outdoor East Preliminary qualifier in her career, which spanned five seasons with the Minutewomen. She was an eight-time New England champion and 10-time Atlantic 10 champion on the track.
The Minutewomen field hockey team was represented on two squads competing in Pool A of the Games’ hockey tournament. Sarah Hawkshaw ’18 was a starter for the Irish national team, registering two shots on goal in her squad’s five pool play matches, and Marlise van Tonder ‘22, a traveling reserve for South Africa who ultimately did not see action, became the fourth UMass goalkeeper to make an Olympic roster.
In her UMass career from 2014-17, Hawkshaw was named Atlantic 10 All-Conference all four years and collected NFHCA All-America laurels her final two seasons. The forward and midfielder graduated ranked eighth in program history in career scoring (92 points) and seventh in goals (40). During her time in Amherst, the Minutewomen won Atlantic 10 titles in 2015 and 2016 and received the league's automatic bid to both respective NCAA Tournaments.
Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, van Tonder was unable to compete for Massachusetts during the Spring 2021 season. She remained in South Africa during this time, training and actively competing for a spot on the 19-woman squad. She remains an active member of the Minutewomen roster, entering Fall 2021 as a senior.
Finally, Florence native Gabby Thomas, whose mother Jennifer Randall is associate professor and associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Education, won the bronze medal in the 200 meters with a finals time of 21.87, her fastest time at the Games.
Thomas attended Williston Northampton School before starring on the track at Harvard while studying neurobiology and global health. She won 22 total conference titles in six different events during her three years with the Crimson, and now competes professionally while pursuing a master’s degree in epidemiology at the University of Texas at Austin.