Men finish first, women last, in lone home cross-country meet
On a sunny Saturday morning, which Massachusetts men’s cross-country coach Ken O’ Brien described as “perfect for our sport,” the University of Massachusetts men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in their only home meet of the season.
In front of a spirited crowd, UMass used a total team effort to capture its first victory of the season. The win is just another in an impressive streak as it marks the fourth consecutive year the Minutemen have pleased their home crowd with a victory.
The coach was pleased as well.
“It was the way I thought our team would compete,” O’Brien said. “Each team that was there had a good piece of success. I thought the talent showed.”
The five-way race included cross-town rival Amherst College with Vermont, UConn and Maine.
From the outset, the race was highly competitive, featuring eight NCAA Division I and III qualifiers. Four runners placed in the top eight overall for the Minutemen.
Junior David Johnson led the way, turning in his best run of the young season and placing third overall with a time of 25 minutes, 38 seconds. In a span of 13 seconds, three other UMass runners crossed the finish line. Juniors Sean Duncan and Kevin Johnson finished with identical times of 25 minutes 50 seconds, which earned them fifth and sixth place, respectively. One second later, senior Nicolai Naranjo completed the quartet of top-ten runners with a time of 25 minutes, 51 seconds.
Several others made key contributions including senior Andrew McCann and sophomore Scott VanderMolen who finished17th and 21st respectively.
Not only were the weather conditions ideal on Saturday, but as coach O’Brien noted the atmosphere was also great. Featuring two local schools and three other northeastern schools, there was a strong fan base for all teams involved.
“We had a tremendous crowd .That really sparked the kids before the race and during the race,” he said. “We designed the course so that the teams are brought back in front of the crowds, so spectators can see the race and be involved. And, I thought the energy from the crowd really translated onto the course.”
The Minutewomen also held their annual home meet on Saturday and placed fifth overall. They received stiff competition from Boston College, Maine, Vermont and Five College rival Amherst College. The Eagles won the meet with a score of 32 points.
Minutewoman head coach Julie LaFreniere believes her team could have performed much better if not for a slow start.
“I thought our athletes got off the line a little too slowly, and they let the race slip out of their hands in the first half and never could really catch up and run right where we belong,” she said.
Sophomore Claire Petit led the Minutewomen, finishing with a time of 18 minutes and 28 seconds in the 5k, good for 16th overall. Fellow sophomore Karen Roa finished 18th overall with a time of 18 minutes and 37 seconds. Coach LaFreneire was disappointed in her team’s performance on Saturday and hopes the team can make an adjustment to garner more rewarding results in the near future.
“Our team – they are real good, hard trainers. They have to take what they do in practice and bring it to the meet. So we will be working hard,” she said.
Both teams have a long layoff until their next meet, which does not take place until Friday, Oct. 2.
Jeffrey Engmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.