The men’s and women’s cross country teams travel to Hanover, N.H. this Saturday for their first meet of the season at the Dartmouth Invitational.
The men’s team will run the 8K while the women will compete in the 5K. Last year both the men’s and women’s team took third-place at the invitational.
“Dartmouth is a great cross country course,” UMass men’s coach Ken O’Brien said.
The Minutemen are competing against five other schools including Dartmouth, Central Connecticut, Southern Connecticut, and Keene State.
It’s an early meet for all of the New England schools and it should show where all the schools stand, according to O’Brien.
“The first contest of any sport, the coaches are all uncertain,” O’Brien said. “I think we have a really solid team, a little on the younger side, but good talent and a youthful approach.”
Jess Regnier and Joe Czupryna are both juniors and are expected to lead the team in this meet. Regnier is the number-one returning runner from last year. Czupryna was very strong at the end of last year and has shown continued progress, according to O’Brien.
“We’re really happy with the way things are going [in practice],” O’Brien said. “The returning runners did their homework and the incoming freshmen are motivated and want to contribute to a new school.”
O’Brien explained that he generally tries to bring younger runners on gradually during the season. The younger runners aren’t as familiar with races like Dartmouth. The meet next week at home is easier and will be better for the less experienced runners, according to O’Brien.
“We as coaches need to evaluate where the younger kids stand,” O’Brien said.
The coaches are excited and looking forward to the next two weeks. They combine the Dartmouth meet and the September 15 home meet as a “two week package”, according to O’Brien.
The Minutewomen will be competing against Dartmouth, US Naval Academy, and Keene State in the event this weekend.
UMass should have good competition in this meet. Dartmouth is usually nationally ranked while Keene State is division three, but has two nationally-ranked runners. UMass is unfamiliar with the skill level of the US Naval Academy, according to UMass women’s coach Julie LaFreniere.
“We’re a very young squad,” LaFreniere said. “I would say that we don’t have a lot of experience, but I do like their attitudes and they are hard workers.”
LaFreniere expects senior captain Christina DeRosa to lead the team.
“She should be able to run with the top athletes at the race on Saturday,” LaFreniere said.
Senior captain Amber Sayer and Shiyi Zan are expected to run in the top three, according to LaFreniere.
“From looking at practice, a nice surprise is Lauren Stocker, a freshman,” LaFreniere said. “She is in very good shape, very fit, and she’s ready. She’ll easily make the top five.”
LaFreniere thinks freshman Gina Perno could possibly round out the top five. She is an 800-meter specialist in track.
“We’re loaded with freshman,” LaFreniere said. “From practice Sam Sacchetti and Kristin Darling [both freshman] are running in a tight little pack. It’s wide open with the freshman.”
The men and women’s teams are both young, but coaches seem to be excited about the enthusiasm and dedication of their respective teams.
Melissa Turtinen can be reached at [email protected]