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Minuteman Invitational kicks off 2015 season

Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian

Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian

 

Saturday’s Minuteman Invitational was an eventful day for the Massachusetts men’s and women’s cross country teams, beginning with opening ceremonies that honored the first ever women’s team from 1975, and ending with fourth place finishes for both teams.

Connecticut came away with first place finishes in both races, scoring 53 points in the men’s race and 25 in the women’s against a field of six teams. Laura Hottenrott of Boston College won the women’s 5k race with a time of 17:34, and Mohamed Hussien of Amherst College won the men’s 6k with a time of 19:28.

However, neither coach seemed concerned with the bottom-half finishes of their teams.

“I’m not bothered by the fourth place finish at all,” men’s coach Ken O’Brien said. “I think our runners showed the rustiness of a typical early season race but we’re in a similar place that we were in last year.”

“We were missing some key runners today, and I think our team will show a lot more strength later in the season then we did today,” women’s coach Julie Lafreniere said.

The men’s team totaled 91 points after the final runner crossed the line, a full 38 points over first place UConn’s total. But like the coaching staff, runners were equally unconcerned about the results. Senior Ben Groleau, who finished second for the Minutemen, echoed O’Brien’s sentiments about the race.

“It being so early in the season, we are typically told to ease into the race, and it’s really more of a fitness test for our team,” Groleau said.

The first runner to cross the line for the men’s squad was sophomore Samuel Conway, who placed sixth in a field of 91 runners with a time of 19:51. It was Conway’s first race back after missing much of last year with bronchial infections.

Another standout performer for the Minutemen was freshman Michael Famigliette, who made his collegiate debut with an impressive time of 20:17. He was the fourth UMass runner to cross the finish line and placed 26th overall.

“Coming into my first college race I was nervous, and I didn’t really know where I was in terms of my training. I kind of surprised myself today,” Famigliette said.

Livingstone Shines in her Debut

The Minutewomen had similar results in their race, and they also finished fourth out of six teams. UMass was conservative in its approach with a focus on pack running, and it was missing key runners in Heather Maclean and Natalie Mako. The Minutewomen finished with a total score of 113, 88 points behind first-place UConn.

Despite the fourth place finish, there were still several impressive performances, starting with the debut of freshman runner Alexa Livingstone from Ottawa, Ontario. Livingstone finished first for UMass and 16th overall with a time of 18:39.

“I really started to push it heading up the last hill because I knew the rest of the course was down hill,” Livingstone said,” This race gave me a lot of confidence, and coming back from my hip flexor injury I felt really strong.”

The second runner to place for the Minutewomen was senior captain Carly Zinner, with a time of 18:50 that was good for 21st overall. She elaborated about the team’s conservative approach.

“We had some pretty stiff competition out there today so we didn’t want to try and go off with the lead runners, rather we race conservatively at the beginning and pick off runners later in the race as the hills begin to wear them down,” Zinner said.

The third member to finish for UMass was sophomore Colleen Sands in her first race since an impressive spring track season. She finished with a time of 18:57 that earned her 24th overall. After the race she highlighted the difference between racing on the track and racing on a cross-country course.

“What drives me more in cross country is having my teammates around me. In track last season it was just me out there, but now I look up and I see (Zinner) and (Livingstone) and I think ‘ok they’re hurting too so I need to push myself for them,’” Sands said.

The Minutemen and Minutewomen will return to action in the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown invitational in Boston on September 25.

Nick Souza can be reached at njsouza@umass.edu.

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