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Monday, October 5, 2015

Women’s cross country wraps up season, men’s with strong showing

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian File Photo

The Massachusetts women’s cross country team closed out its season at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships in Madison, Conn., last Friday, finishing 22nd out of 37 teams.

Sophomore Katie Powers led the pack for the Minutewomen, finishing 99th out of the competition’s 253 runners with a season-best time of 22 minutes, three seconds.

“I think (Powers) had a very nice competitive race, and she had enough left with probably the last half-mile to really kick it into another gear and drive it home,” women’s cross country coach Julie LaFreniere said.

Freshmen Carly Zinner and Molly McMahon finished second and third, respectively, on the team. Zinner has been a top performer for the Minutewomen all season long, but LaFreniere said McMahon’s performance was a surprise.

According to LaFreniere, McMahon did not have a cross country team at her high school, and she made her way onto the squad after trying out in August. However, LaFreniere said she has worked her way up the ranks on the team.

“When the gun went off Friday for the NCAA Regional Meet, she just stuck to Carly and Katie and Rachel (Hilliard, who finished fourth),” LaFreniere said. “I expected to see three of them together, but Molly was right on them the whole time.”

The third freshman to compete for UMass was Lizzy Blanchard, who was competing for the first time since the Paul Short Invitational on Sept. 28 after catching bronchitis back in October. Blanchard finished sixth on the Minutewomen with a time of 23:08.9.

Junior Sarah Barrett finished fifth for UMass with a time of 22:56.8 and sophomore Hannah White finished seventh at 23:12.6.

LaFreniere said that it was not Barrett’s usual type of performance.

“She gave everything she had, but it just wasn’t quite there for her last Friday,” LaFreniere said. “She wasn’t quite 100 percent, maybe she was a little tired. She still performed well, but it wasn’t where she normally can race.”

LaFreniere also added that this year’s team was very inexperienced, and should be much better next year.

“I predict by September of next year all of these young runners will be at a totally different level than when they came in here,” LaFreniere said.

Men’s side with strong showing

The men’s cross country team also competed at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships and finished 10th out of 34 teams.

Junior Patrick McGowan ran for the first time since the Dellinger Invitational on Sept. 29 after taking time off due to muscle spasms in his back. The team’s star runner took no time at all to return to form, and finished first for on the team and 51st overall out of 239 competitors. McGowan finished with a time of 31:34.6 for his third finish in the top two this season.

Coach Ken O’Brien was very impressed with McGowan’s performance.

“We certainly were hoping that he would be able to come through,” O’Brien said. “When you step back for a while due to injury, you never are certain as to how the first performance will play out, and it was, No. 1, very important to the team to have the first man come back and score that high, and at the same time I think it took a lot of discipline and dedication on his part.”

Senior John O’Shea and junior Antony Taylor finished second and third, respectively. O’Shea finished 60th overall with a time of 31:39.8 for his fifth finish in the team’s top three of the season, and Taylor finished 79th overall at 32:00.5 for his fourth finish in the top three.

Freshmen Ben Groleau and Daniel Sheldon finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Groleau finished 84th overall with a time of 32:06.2, and Sheldon finished 109th overall at 32:36.6.

Sophomore Richard Racz and junior Jared Reddy rounded things off for the Minutemen. Racz finished sixth for UMass with a time of 32:39.5, and Reddy finished seventh at 32;48.3.

O’Brien said the team was at its best in the race.

“At probably only the first two meets of the year have we been at what I would call full level, without any injuries or illnesses,” O’Brien said. “So I knew we never had seen the best of our team, I just didn’t know if the adjustments were made in terms of rest and guys getting back into shape. I didn’t know when they would pay off, and we were getting down to the last meet or so, and it was great to see the top seven guys on the field at the same time and doing well.”

The Minutemen will close out their season this Saturday at the IC4A Championships in Bronx, N.Y. The race is set to start at 10 a.m.

O’Brien said that for that race, he will send out all the runners who have not had a chance to run this year, primarily to develop some future players.

“We have nine freshmen going down and two juniors,” O’Brien said. “So it’s going to be a younger team, and we’ll try to develop some of the depth for our future.”

Jesse Mayfield-Sheehan can be reached at and followed on Twitter @JGMS88.

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