Men’s and women’s teams have unpleasing weekend

By Eric Mansfield

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The Massachusetts cross-country teams took part in the Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, PA on Friday. The Minutemen finished 30th out of 42 teams and the Minutewomen took 32nd  in a field of 41.

Daniel Barry crossed the finish line first for the Minutemen with a time of 25 minutes, nine seconds. Following Barry were seniors Andrew Mulvaney and Scott VanderMolen with times of 25:31 and 25:44, respectively.

The remaining two top five finishers for UMass included senior Robert Deegan and freshman Patrick McGowan, who finished with times of 25:49 and 25:51.

In the women’s race, Karen Roa was the first Minutewoman to cross the line, finishing with a time of 21:56. Following her was senior Elizabeth Fisk and sophomore Courtney Baldwin with times of 22:41 and 22:49, respectively.

Rounding out the top five for the Minutewomen were senior Gina Perno and junior Claire Pettit, finishing with times of 23:02 and 23:30.

Neither coach was particularly pleased with their respective team’s performance.

Men’s coach Ken O’Brien said that a top 15 finish would have been realistic but it came out flat.

O’Brien said that the Minutemen have “relative inexperience at a meet of that stature.”

While UMass is a senior-laden group, the returning members aren’t in the same role as they were last year.

“The returning members weren’t front runners,” O’Brien said. “It takes a while for the team to adjust [to their newer and more prominent roles].”

O’Brien explained that with a team that isn’t experienced in their new roles, “it’s difficult to find rapid improvement” while racing once a week at the most.”

Out of the group of five freshman, McGowan seems to have adjusted to college cross country the most. McGowan finished fifth for UMass.

“He’s found a way to make it work,” O’Brien said.

 Women’s coach Julie LaFreniere thought this meet showed a “mixed bag” of results for the Minutewomen.

LaFreniere was pleased with Roa’s performance, who has been leading the Minutewomen in training most of the season.

“She really showed what she does have,” LaFreniere said.

Perno and Baldwin both struggled with breathing issues. It has been an ongoing problem for Baldwin and the humid weather didn’t help. Perno, who hadn’t been feeling well, put her best foot forward but was eventually diagnosed with a sinus infection.

It’s also recently become apparent that senior Lauren Stocker, who twisted her ankle on a trail run in training will not be able to recover. The tentative plan is to redshirt her, making her eligible to compete next year as a graduate student.

The course conditions were soft and wet, which doesn’t make for great times and is tougher on the legs of the runners, slowing their recovery time.

“It wasn’t from a lack of effort,” LaFreniere said. “We were not at full strength.”

Both teams will travel to Franklin Park in Boston this Saturday for the New England Championships, which will include 40-plus teams from Division I, II and III.

O’Brien is confident the Minutemen “will finish higher than top 15.”

This will be a return visit to Franklin Park for LaFreniere and the Minutewomen. On Sept. 11th the Minutewomen finished eighth out of 10 teams in the Boston College Invitational.

“[Friday was] not our best [performance],” LaFreniere said. “[This weekend] they’ll be ready.”

Eric Mansfield can be reached at [email protected]