Mixed results for cross country teams at New Englands

By Jeffrey Okerman

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Massachusetts cross country teams traveled to Franklin Park in Boston to compete in the New England Championships over the weekend, as they approach the championship portion of their season. Both the men and women competed in a field of 43 teams.

On the men’s side, UMass collected 264 points, which earned it a seventh place team finish. The Minutemen were led by Sean Duncan, who placed 12th overall and ran a 25:10 on the nearly 5-mile course. His first place team finish was his third in a row for the Minutemen, and it doesn’t come as a surprise to what UMass coach Ken O’Brien expected of him.

“Coming back [for his fifth year of eligibility] he was clearly our No. 1,” said O’Brien. “So it is no surprise that, of his last three races, he’s been in first for our team. It’s a pretty good day for Sean, but three races in a row is difficult. For someone like Sean who runs hard, may be showing a little wear and tear, but he did really well, and helped his team significantly.”

Following Duncan were a group of sophomores who are quickly becoming key contributors to the Minutemen’s squad. The next closest finisher, Anthony Taylor, picked up a 30th overall placing with a time of 25:33. Patrick McGowan followed in 37th (25:44) and Jared Reddy at 72nd (26:14). Senior Andrew Erwin rounded out UMass’ top five.

“I felt as though they would be a main part of our team this year,” said O’Brien. “I felt it was fruitless to guess as to when it would happen. However, I could see some improvement in their workouts over the last two weeks. We’re getting good, and I’m not completely surprised, but happy with their progress.”

The women’s team  took the 5,000-meter version of the same course in Franklin Park. However, their 13th-place finish garnered much less glistening reviews from coach Julia LaFreniere.

“Thirteenth… not really happy with that,” said LaFreniere. “[I] would be much happier in the top eight, but it is what it is, and we have a lot of work to do.”

Senior Karen Roa continued her streak of leading the team with an impressive 18:08 performance to capture the 10th overall finish. Her performance earned her the A-10 Cross Country Performer of the Week.

However, there was a significant drop-off following Roa. Sarah Barrett (19:15) finished 76th, Courtney Baldwin (19:18) finished 80th. Not much farther off the pair were Rachel Hilliard, who was the 99th runner to cross, and Colleen Wetherbee at 102nd. LaFreniere, while pleased with the teamwork between the pairs, is still looking for more.

“I like that the rest of the team is pretty close to each other,” said LaFreniere. “The key here is that they need to be closer to Karen. They need to be 30 to 40 seconds closer, and we would have had a much better showing at the NEC.”

Despite her criticisms, LaFreniere doesn’t want to downplay the improvements of her squad.

“They’ve made progress,” said LaFreniere. “That whole pack used to be two minutes behind Karen. They’re closer, but they need to cut [the gap] down even more. We have time [to improve], but we’re running out of time, and I’m getting a little anxious.”

LaFreniere has already put the weekend behind her and is looking forward to the “more important meets.”

The Minutewomen have one final tune-up at the Rothenberg Race on Oct. 14 before the start of the highly anticipated A-10 Championships.

Meanwhile, the Minutemen will next take to the course at the A-10 Championships in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 29.

Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at [email protected]