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Men’s cross country places 3rd, women’s places 5th at New England Championships

(Collegian File Photo)

The Massachusetts men’s and women’s cross country teams placed third and fifth respectively at the New England Championship meet last Saturday at Franklin Park in Boston.

On the men’s side, UMass finished with 133 points. It was led in scoring by sophomore Dawson Bathgate, who ran the 8K course in 25:37. He was followed by teammates Erik Engstrom (25:51), Michael McDonald (25:55), Jackson Southard (25:59) and Michael Famiglietti (26:17).

“This was the third race we’ve had and the third time a different person has been the number one guy for us,” said UMass coach David Jackson. “It gives everyone a chance to be the leader for a race, so every one of our guys is moving toward thinking ‘I want to be the guy.’”

The meet was close, with the top three place teams only separated by 14 points. Stonehill College won with 119 points, while Massachusetts Institute of Technology took second with 124 points.

Jackson said after the meet that he believes the team is moving in the right direction, calling the race a big step forward. He also stressed the importance of the training led by coach emeritus Ken O’Brien.

“It’s a sign of their training and what Coach O’Brien has been doing with them,” Jackson said. “These guys have leveled up with workouts this year and they’re responding. They’re running better, smarter and stronger, and that’s our intent.”

The Minutemen are keeping their eyes on the ultimate goal of the season – the Atlantic 10 Conference Meet on Oct. 28.

“This is where we need to be right now,” said Jackson. “The third place finish keeps us hungry, but it allows our guys to see that the plan is coming together.”

In the women’s 5K race, UMass placed fifth behind an individual victory from Heather MacLean, who earned NCAA Division 1 Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week for her performance.

“She broke away at 120 meters,” said women’s coach Julie LaFreniere, describing MacLean’s nearly 20-second victory.

The redshirt senior cruised through the last 4,880 meters of the course, finishing in 17:36.

Senior Colleen Sands was second for the Minutewomen, placing sixth overall in 18:08. Sands’ time was a 27 second improvement from the Battle in Beantown meet two weeks prior, which was also at Franklin Park.

“This was a huge breakout [for Sands],” said LaFreniere. “She was second at the mile. It was a gutsy race.”

Also scoring for UMass were Caroline Clark (19:01), Brooke Hansel (19:05) and Serena Sarage (19:49).

The Minutewomen have done significant uphill training in preparation for an Atlantic 10 course with significant elevation change.

“Hills mean nothing to them at this point,” LaFreniere said.

LaFreniere stressed the importance of the rest of her squad keeping up with the pace of MacLean.

“We need to get Collette [O’Leary], Brooke Hansel, Serena Sarage, Caroline Clark and Catherine Curtin to close the gap [on MacLean],” LaFreniere said.

Looking down the stretch, both teams will travel to Central Connecticut State University for a smaller meet that will give some runners on the women’s team who are not in the top seven the chance to race.

For the men’s team, the CCSU meet will allow runners competing later in the season to stay sharp and tune-up. After that, it’s on to the postseason.

The Central Connecticut Meet will be held on Oct. 20. Both teams will go off at 4:00 p.m.

Will Katcher can be reached at wkatcher@umass.edu and followed on Twitter at @will_katcher.

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