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UMass men and women’s teams place in top 20

A rainy day in Boston was not the ideal forecast for a multi-kilometer run.

The Massachusetts cross country teams attended the NCAA Regional Qualifier at Franklin Park this past Saturday, with the men placing 11th out of 36 teams and the women 20th out of 35 entries.

“We were deep in mud with a lot of rain,” said men’s coach Ken O’Brien. “You always expect adverse weather conditions at the end of the year, and we had just that.”

Despite a rugged 10-kilometer course – with better footing, according to O’Brien, than the Atlantic 10 Championships two weeks ago in St. Louis – junior Kevin Johnson put in a worthy effort. He finished with a time of 32 minutes, 47 seconds, good for 43rd out of the 244 runners.

On the women’s side, A-10 Freshman of the Year Courtney Baldwin led the way, footing her way to a 22:55 6-kilometer finish.

Senior Jonathan Pierce finished at 30 minutes flat, two seconds and three positions ahead of Johnson’s brother, David.

Also a junior, David Johnson crossed the line in third for the Minutemen at 33:02 and 56th on the day.

“The Johnson brothers raced extremely well,” O’Brien said. “They were our most reliable runners this year, and they performed at a very high rate the entire season and this weekend.”

In a race in which the Minutemen finished 6th last year, the men’s team battled illnesses and injuries to place lower than expected.

“We had high aspirations, and injuries watered it down,” O’Brien said. “But it wasn’t from lack of effort.”

Senior Andrew McCann and junior Daniel Barry, who were separated by four seconds, rounded out the men’s top five. McCann’s 33:32 put him at 84th, with Barry three spots behind with a time of 33:36.

Baldwin, who has crossed the line first for the Minutewomen in the past three meets, placed 23rd out of 243 runners.

Redshirt junior Shiyi Zan was also in the top 100, finishing at 24:22 – good for 96th. Sophomore Karen Roa (24:59, 135th), junior Gina Perno (25:11, 142nd), and freshman Danielle Allocco (26:02, 191st) rounded out the top five.

The women finished with 587 points, while the men accumulated 323. The women’s side was led by Syracuse, with 59 points, followed by Providence at 70. The Orange men’s team also won with 55 points, followed by Iona at 59.

“This was a funny conclusion to our year,” O’Brien said of the final conference race of the season. “The past two or three weeks, we had crazy setbacks with injuries and illness. We left with an overall sense of disappointment, but we can’t fault the efforts that were put in by the individuals for how they raced.”

Both teams travel to New York City this Saturday for the IC4A Championships, hosted by the East Coast Athletic Conference.

Daniel Herberholz can be reached at danielherberholz@gmail.com.

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