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Minutewomen place 4th in Albany while Minutemen place 25th at ISU Pre-Nationals in Indiana

In few words, Massachusetts women’s cross country coach Julie Lafrieniere, said that her team “put it together” in the Albany Invitational.

On Saturday, in a field of 24 teams, the Minutewomen finished 4th overall, with a productive total of 141 points, two points behind third place finisher Sacred Heart. It was the team’s strongest performance of the season, one that included sound contributions from several runners.

“I’m happy with the times, and I feel like the team is starting to race well,” said Lafreniere.

Once again, freshman Courtney Baldwin made her presence felt, as she led the Minutewomen for the second straight week. In her second race of the season, Baldwin finished with a time of 18 minutes, 10 seconds, which secured her an 11th place overall finish in a field of 193 runners. Coach Lafrienere expressed pride in seeing her young athlete’s ability to improve upon such a strong performance last week.

“Baldwin did a very nice job. She’s a very good athlete. We told her to try to stay loose, and she did do that.”

 Lafrieniere was also pleased with the way her two team captains competed this weekend as well. Red-shirt junior Shiyi Zan had her best run of the season, finishing with a time of 18:22, earning her 19th place overall. Fellow junior Lauren Stocker was the next UMass runner to cross the finish line, finishing in 23rd overall with a time of 18:23.

As impressive it was, Coach Lafreniere was not exactly surprised by her team’s performance. Two of the Minutewomen’s top five runners are finally out competing in the stretch run of the season. Zan has had to battled sickness this season, and Baldwin, a freshman, a new participant to the sport has begun make an immediate impact on the team.

The Minutewomen have a week off, and then they travel to Saint Louis, Mo on Halloween, to compete for conference supremacy in the Atlantic 10 Championships.

The Minutemen race this weekend featured many teams that look to compete for the national championship this season.

UMass placed 25th out of 35th  in the ISU Pre Nationals held in Terre Haute,  Ind. Saturday. The race featured many of the top cross country programs in the nation, including No. 1-ranked Stanford, who emerged as victorious in the race on Saturday.

Leading the way for the Minutemen was junior Kevin Johnson, who finished 74th overall in the race with a time of 24:49:4. His brother David recorded the second best time for the Minutemen, finishing with a time of 25:03:17, earning him 97th overall. Senior Andrew McCann finished the race about fifteen seconds behind Johnson with a time of 25:17:08. UMass coach Ken O’Brien knows that his team did not necessarily have its best race of the season, and believes there is a certain level that it could reach before season’s end.

“I think as a group we haven’t seen our best performances yet,” said O’Brien. We got plenty left in terms of what our potential is.”

Senior Jonathan Pierce, finished fourth on the team with a time of 25:20:03 and sophomore Zachary Gordon rounded out the team’s top five by running a time of 26:30:08. With two weeks before the team’s next race, O’Brien understands that it is a crucial time of preparation balanced with rest.

“You try to tie up a lot of loose ends with the last weeks of the season,” O’Brien said  “We have to be more cognizant of the proper amount of work and the proper amount of rest.”

The Minutemen can rest up this week, but looming on the schedule is the A-10 Championships on Oct. 31.

Jeffrey Engmann can be reached at jengmann@student.umass.edu.

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