The Massachusetts men’s cross country squad traveled to New York last weekend for one final time in the 2011 season at the 103rd IC4A Championships. Ten Minutemen joined a field of 154, and secured ninth-place out of a field of 17 teams, while Princeton conquered the field to take the top spot.
For the seventh and final race, Sean Duncan led UMass through the field, picking up fifth-place with a time of 25:09. This race marked the final time the graduate student pulled on the Minutemen colors. He ends his career at UMass with all-conference honors after leading the Minutemen all season long. UMass coach Ken O’Brien is confident that Duncan ended his career on a high note.
“It probably was one of his better cross country races of his career,” said O’Brien. “This was probably the better race of his season, better race of his career and a good way to finish up the season, and [collegiate] career.”
The next to cross the line was fellow all-conference finisher, Patrick McGowan (25:41), in 23rd place. Since finishing just four places behind Duncan at the Atlantic 10 championship meet, McGowan dropped significant time, this time finishing 32 seconds off the pace of the team’s No. 1.
The Minutemen followed up with a pair of underclassmen crossing the finish line after McGowan. Sophomore Anthony Taylor (26:06) captured the third place spot on the team, finishing in 61st place overall.
Fellow sophomore Jared Reddy (26:11) wasn’t far behind him, finishing 68th overall. He finished just a second better than junior John O’Shea (26:12), who secured 69th, as the team’s fifth finisher. O’Brien said that the core pack of runners will prove valuable to the team in the spring season.
“It is [valuable] for two reasons,” said O’Brien. “The guys had a lot of expectations because they know the team is coming together a bit. But also, with that group of four coming back we’ll be formidable next year.”
Following O’Shea, nearly a minute gap opened up before another UMass competitor crossed the finish line. Sophomore Paul Merriman (27:07) collected 109th place. Freshman Paul Mantia (27:09) was next to finish, both for the Minutemen, and overall, placing 110th.
O’Brien rated his team’s performance over the weekend as a “success”, and following the meet he believes his squad ranks highly when stacked up against its counterparts.
“I look at it as a success,” said O’Brien. “We basically ran against the 17 best teams, and at the whole meet, we really were ninth out of 30 teams. We responded very well following up for the [NCAA Regionals].”
“We’ve had some ups and downs but overall in the past few days we passed it.”
The IC4A championships marked the conclusion of the cross country season, and now O’Brien, and his runners, will be looking toward the beginning of the track season.
UMass’ track and field team will compete for the first time on Jan. 14, at the Sorlein Invitational in North Kingston, R.I.
Jeffery Okerman can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.