On Saturday at the Bryant University Invitational, several fresh-faced competitors seized the opportunity to make their mark on their respective Massachusetts cross country teams.
Between the two sides, five newcomers finished in their respective top five for the first time.
Sophomore Antony Taylor in his first competition for the Maroon and White, seemed unfazed by pre-race jitters, racing ahead of his teammates to finish first for the Minutemen. Ultimately, he finished 14th out of 97 competitors, managing to make his way through the 5K course in 15:46.29.
Junior John O’Shea and freshman Michael Giardina also started their collegiate careers off to a hot start.
O’Shea clocked in at 16:07.49, good for 26th place overall. Giardina was right behind as he finished just over a second behind O’Shea in 16:08.55. Although another competitor managed to sneak across the finish line between them, Giardina’s effort put him in 28th place.
“We’ve got a completely different team than the one we were fortunate enough to have the last four years,” said UMass coach Ken O’Brien, in an interview with UMass Athletics. “It’s going to be fun.”
To go along with the budding newcomers, senior Andrew Erwin and sophomore Jared Reddy held down the fort for the returning Minutemen.
Erwin, who competed in four cross country meets last year, started this campaign off with a bang, clocking in at 16:02.64, placing him at 23rd.
Reddy came across in 16:26.70, locking in his second career top-five finish for the Minutemen and putting him in 32nd place.
Two veterans also came through for UMass on the women’s side. Senior Karen Roa led the way for the Minutewomen as she came in sixth place overall – the best finish by any UMass athlete that day. Her 18:17.99 mark was just over a minute behind the first-place finisher.
Senior Caroline Conena came in second at the meet for UMass as she managed a 19:28.31 mark, which was enough for 26th place overall.
But ultimately, Saturday belonged to the newcomers for UMass cross country.
Freshmen made up the rest of the top five for the women’s team, as Rachel Hilliard, Megan Cummings and Hannah White came in third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Hilliard came in 29th place, in 19:38.18, while Cummings raced across in 36th in 19:59.25. White rounded out the top finishers for the Minutewomen in 20:01.78, good for 39th overall.
The UMass cross country teams will next compete at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, as they defend their home turf in the Amherst Invitational.
Ben Lambert can be reached at email@example.com.