Injuries challenge runners

By Melissa Turtinen, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts cross country rosters will be slightly different than expected at the beginning of the 2007 season. Due to injuries and a runner studying abroad, the Maroon and White are missing some key elements to the team.

The men’s cross country team will be without senior Nils Fischer. He is studying abroad this fall in England at Leeds University. He chose Leeds University because of its strong food science program. Fischer will also have the chance to train with British runners while abroad.

“It’s hard to leave UMass,” Fischer said, “But it will eventually benefit the team as well as satisfy my personal reasons and give me some new perspectives.”

Fischer will red-shirt this year and return to cross country next fall.

“As Division I athletes, we’re only allowed four seasons of each sport,” Fischer said. “Since I’ve only used three for cross country, I’ll use my fourth season a year later.

“As long as I don’t lose my eligibility with gambling, killing anyone or doing drugs, I should be OK,” he joked.

Fischer is expecting the team to succeed while he is gone due to strong returning runners and a solid freshman class.

“Combining this [returning runners and newcomers] will be a recipe for success,” he said. “And this should be one of the more exciting years for UMass cross country.”

Injuries are hard to recover from in a sport where it’s hard to slowly get back into the game, according to UMass men’s coach Ken O’Brien. That’s what the team must deal with at the start of the season with Ryan Durkin, Kevin Quadrozzi and Ryan DiOrio easing their way back into the sport.

“Recovery is unusual in relation to other sports,” O’Brien said. “With cross country the gun goes off and you have to race for 30 minutes. You don’t have the opportunity to make your way back into it. It’s an all or nothing thing.”

Senior co-captain Ryan Durkin was diagnosed with mononucleosis at the end of July and will have a slow start to this season.

“It’s difficult to entertain a recovery time with mono,” O’Brien said. “It’s one of those situations where you do the best that you can as you start to recover and then you have the reorganization of a training program so that it’s gradual enough to retain your fitness.”

O’Brien expects that he will not be very competitive for the first half of the season.

“It’s unfortunate because it’s always devastating for a senior to miss his last season,” O’Brien said.

Quadrozzi and DiOrio both sustained injuries over the summer. This prevented them from training and will slow their respective starts to the season.

The Minutewomen are also suffering from injuries. Senior Taryn Trapp will miss this season due to a stress fracture from the end of last year, but she will return next year.

“It’s a significant loss for our program,” women’s coach Julie LaFreniere said.

Red-shirt freshman Shiyi Zan will run this fall after not competing last year due to an injury.

“Shiyi’s capable of possibly being No. 2 in our pack,” LaFreniere said.

Both teams compete on Sept. 8 at the Dartmouth Invitational in Hanover, N.H.

Melissa Turtinen can be reached at [email protected]