Cross Country team reflects on solid season

By Jeffrey Okerman

With the Massachusetts cross country season over, both the men’s and women’s squads won’t have a lot of time to reflect and reevaluate before the track and field season begins next semester.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

On the men’s side, Sean Duncan was a fixture at the front of the pack, leading the way for every race he ran.

Duncan opened his final season at UMass picking up third-place at the Minuteman invite. The graduate student began his 8,000 meter campaign with a 25:28 showing at Paul Short, a time he beat at the Atlantic 10 championship, where he earned all-conference honors with a time of 24:44. With Duncan’s collegiate career now over, UMass coach Ken O’Brien expects the team to come together to fill the gap.

“There are some teams that have a single superstar, or they have a group of five or six solid runners with no weaknesses,” said O’Brien. “Right now I think we’re going to be more of a group of five or six, with the top spot switching between people.”

Patrick McGowan also earned all-conference honors, securing 12th place at the conference meet with a time of 24:54. He began his season trailing Anthony Taylor at the Minuteman invite, but quickly established himself as the No. 2 runner after Patrick McAllister was sidelined with a sickness.

“Patrick McAllister [was our] No. 2 runner,” said O’Brien. “And we missed that gap between our first and second runner, but it is just one of those crazy things that happens.”

The remainder of the team enjoyed success at a few meets this season. At the New England Championship, UMass claimed seventh-place out of 39 teams, fifth out of 14 conference participants at A-10, and ninth-place of 17 at the IC4A.

“Overall, I think we had a good season,” said O’Brien. “There was some unevenness over the course of the year, but the attitude was great, they gained a lot of experience and the overall accomplishments were very, very good. My gut reaction was that of all the teams on the east coast we were probably ranked 12th.”

On the women’s side, the squad wasn’t as successful as the Minutemen.

Senior Karen Roa was the lone all-conference honors recipient on the team, capturing fifth-place (17:37) at the A-10 meet. At the Minuteman invite, Roa ran her best time of the season, finishing in 17:36. Like Duncan, she led the Minutewomen in every race she participated in and was counted on to be the No. 1 runner all season long.

Outside of Roa, however, UMass struggled to place well. At the Paul Short invite, where the Minutewomen finished 38th out of the 45 competing schools, Roa crossed the line in 42nd, only to have the next-best UMass finisher place 241st.

Similarly, at the New England Championship, Roa’s 10th-place finish (18:08) boosted the Minutewomen into 13th place making up for the time difference in next best finisher, Sarah Barrett, who claimed 76th.

There are positives for the Minutewomen, however. After Roa, there are a number of runners ready to step up. At the NECs, the gap between second and fifth on the team was 20 seconds, spanning 26 places. At the conference championship, there were only 27 places separating second and seventh on the squad.

Both squads will have a large amount of returning runners next season. The men will lose only Duncan from their top seven, while the women will miss Roa and Colleen Wetherbee. However, with both teams full of underclassmen, each squad can be excited about their respective futures.

For the current runners, however, it is time to turn their attention to track and field, which officially opens its season on Jan. 14, at the Sorlein Invitational at Rhode Island.

Jeffery Okerman can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.