UMass men’s and women’s cross country fails to qualify for NCAA Championships

By Frank Corona

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian File Photo

When the Massachusetts men’s cross country team found out where it finished among the 37 teams in the NCAA Northeast Regional Championship on Friday, it wasn’t what it had hoped to hear.

The Minutemen had placed 20th in the field, which meant they didn’t qualify for the NCAA Championship and will have to settle for an appearance in the IC4A Championship.

But UMass coach Ken O’Brien didn’t seem all that shocked to hear his team wouldn’t make it to the NCAA’s.

“It wasn’t one of surprise,” he said. “You’ve got an outside chance if you put your best race together.”

The team was led by three underclassmen in Ben Groleau, Blake Croteau and Benjamin Thomas. The trio finished in the top three for the Minutemen, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the tough competition.

“Being a young team that’s not completely out of the picture,” O’Brien said, “You need a little more age in distance running which gives you some strength and additional experience.

Groleau, a recent Atlantic 10 All-Conference runner, led the team with a 58th place finish in a field of 255 runners as the sophomore completed the course with a time of 31:31.0.

Croteau, a freshman, took the 97th overall spot with a time of 32:15.0 and was followed by Thomas, who crossed the finish in 110th place seven seconds later.

Antony Taylor, who had led the team with a top-10 finish in the Atlantic 10 Championships, would have to settle for a 118th place finish and a time of 32:27.8. This was his lowest finish of the season.

“There was a day or two that wasn’t up to snub with some other people,” O’Brien said, “but that’s why you have seven men – you have some room for error.”

Miles Hodge rounded out the top five after coming in 176th place with a time of 33.29.1.

The Minutemen will head back to New York for the IC4A Championship in Bronx, N.Y. on Nov. 23.

Women’s season ends

The UMass women’s cross country team didn’t qualify for the NCAA Championships after finishing in 25th place out of 37 teams. Unlike the men’s team, it won’t have a chance for another race, which means its season has come to a close.

The team went down to Bronx, N. Y., this past Friday for the NCAA Northeast Regional Championship and was led by its usual trio of Rachel Hilliard, Christine Davis and Alexandra Purdue-Smithe.

Hilliard came in 82nd place with a time of 22:04.0 and was once again the top finisher for the Minutewomen. This is the sixth time in seven meets that the junior has taken the top spot for the team.

Coming in second for the team was the freshman Davis, who was 116th overall and finished with a time of 22:30.1. Following her was Purdue-Smithe who came in at the 155th spot with a time of 22:55.7. The redshirt junior still has another year of eligibility left as she comes off an impressive year in which she stayed healthy despite being plagued by injuries in the past.

The team’s fourth-place runner was senior Sarah Barrett. In the last race of her collegiate career, Barrett completed the meet in 23:28.0, which was good for the 181st spot. Carly Zinner followed Barrett two seconds later and finished 185th overall to round out the top five for the Minutewomen.

Frank Corona can be reached at [email protected]