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UMass Cross Country teams to compete in NEC’s

The best way to familiarize yourself with a particular place is to go see it – which is exactly what the Massachusetts cross country team is doing at Franklin Park this weekend.

On Oct. 8, the men’s and women’s teams will run the New England Championship at the park, a preview of their Nov. 14 NCAA Championship qualifier race.

The course this weekend will not be identical to the race in November, but the similarities make it helpful to the runners so that they can see the landscape of the race.

“The first mile is usually extremely fast,” women’s coach Julie LaFranier said of the 5K. “Sometimes it might scare an athlete when they hear how fast that first mile is, and it’s not a hard rugged course.”

LaFranier is confident that her team is ready to compete, especially now that they are finally all healthy.

“This will be our first time competing with our full top seven,” LaFranier said. “I hope that will help in their confidence also.”

The men are coming off an eighth-place finish in the Paul Short Run, and are looking to match their fifth-place performance at the Park from a year ago.

According to men’s coach Ken O’Brien, the team should be able to improve their confidence this week against a less competitive group of teams than at the Paul Short Run last weekend.

The Minutemen’s top two performers from last year’s New England Championships, Andrew Mulvaney and Sean Duncan, return to the race this year.

Mulvaney, a senior, placed ninth overall last year with a team-leading 8K time of 25 minutes flat, while Duncan followed just 20 seconds behind Mulvaney for 31st overall.

The most recent A-10 coaches’ poll has the Minutemen atop the rankings, and the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association placed UMass eighth in the Northeast region.

The women are led this season by sophomore Claire Petitt, who has been their top finisher twice – including a 5K personal-best time of 18 minutes, 26 seconds at the Minutewomen’s only home meet this year.

Sophomore Lauren Stocker, who earned A-10 Rookie of The Week honors in 2007 for her effort at the New England Championships, will be back after a year out due to pneumonia.

Also, freshman Courtney Baldwin, a soccer player in high school, will be competing in her first career cross country race.
The teams will travel to Indiana for the Indiana State University Pre-Nationals on October 17th.

Daniel Herberholz can be reached at dherberh@student.umass.edu.

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