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UM to run in NCAA Regional Qualifier

The Massachusetts cross country teams will head to Boston this weekend to compete in the NCAA Regional Qualifier. Both meets will feature some of the top teams in the northeast region, as each team will attempt to earn one of two automatic bids up for grabs this weekend that would solidify their spot in the NCAA championships.

The race on Saturday comes after a two-week layoff for both UMass teams, and men’s coach Ken O’Brien felt that his team utilized it well.

“We’ve had 10 days to this point,” O’Brien said. “It gave us a chance to shake the cobwebs and rest for a few days. And then I thought our team had a real good week of practice.”.

The Minutemen last competed Oct. 31, in the Atlantic 10 Championships, where hard running earned the team a second-place finish. 

Last year, the Minutemen turned in a strong performance at the qualifiers as they placed seventh out of a field of 32 teams. Among those that made significant contributions in last year’s race were seniors Jonathan Pierce and Andrew Mulvaney. Both were top five finishers for the Minutemen. Junior Kevin Johnson was among the top five as well.

Iona won last year’s race, and will look to repeat this weekend.

Both UMass teams are already familiar with the course, as they ran in Boston (Franklin Park) on Oct. 10 when they participated in the New England Championships.

The Minutewomen are also looking to make some noise this weekend. They have been on a late-season surge, in large part due to the improving help of their runners, as well as the instrumental contributions from A-10 Freshman of the Year Courtney Baldwin. The team is coming off perhaps its best performance of the season, where it finished third in the A-10 Championships, the program’s highest finish since 2000. 

This weekend the Minutewomen will look to improve upon the 22nd place finish they earned in last year’s race.

After the A-10 Championships, UMass coach Julie LaFrieniere expressed satisfaction in knowing that her team battled through a course which was extremely muddy and damp. She noted that the course sucked a lot of energy out of her team and expected it to be easier for them to run in this weekend’s race.

However, rainy weather appears to be following UMass. After a relatively sunny week, it is expected to rain both on Friday night, and the entire day on Saturday in Boston. Nevertheless, unless conditions are severe, the race will go on.  

The Minutemen will start their meet at 2:30 p.m., and the women’s race will take place at 3:30 p.m.

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

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