Men’s XC earns top five finish at New England Championships

By Nick Souza

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Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s and women’s cross country teams put forth solid performances this Saturday in Franklin Park, Boston at the New England Championships. The women’s team finished 12th in a field of 39 teams from the region, and the men turned in a fifth place finish out of 38. Senior Ben Groleau and junior Heather MacLean finished in the top 15 in their respective races, earning them spots on the All-New England team.

The men’s race was won by Boston University with a score of 143. They were followed by Amherst College at 176, and Maine finished third with 199. The first individual runner to cross the line at the end of the 8k run was Allen Robert of UMass Lowell at 24:23

The UMass men’s team finally saw its growth and improvement pay off on the scorecard with a fifth place finish and a score of 211 points. For the second consecutive race, all five scoring runners finished in less than 26 minutes and the pack time between them was 47 seconds.

“I thought heading in that a top five finish was going to be one of our more lofty goals, but it was really nice to see our runners pull through and deliver on achieving that goal,” head coach Ken O’Brien said.

Groleau’s performance led the way for the team, as he has through the majority of the season. His approach this year has been patient and controlled. Groleau started the season running more conservatively early in races, and has gradually become more and more aggressive in his racing. While his finishing time was not his fastest of the season on paper at 25:02, his 12th place finish is his best finish.

“Ben Groleau has really approached this season with a lot of maturity, and he’s done a nice job accessing his fitness level throughout the season,” O’Brien said.

The other top five runners for UMass were Jay McMahon, Sam Conway, Daniel Sheldon and Paolo Tavares. Their tight pack time should continue to pay dividends later in the championship season.

The Minutemen will have three weeks to prepare themselves for the Atlantic 10 Championship on Oct. 31.

Minutewomen grind one out

In the women’s race, there was little doubt in who the best team was, as four of Boston College’s runners finished in the top 15 to power the Eagles to a first place finish. BC also scored the first place finish in the race, as Laura Hottenrott won with a time of 17:39. The team score for the Eagles was 56 points, with Quinnipiac coming in a distant second at 143 points. Yale was third with 162 points.

The Minutewomen finished with a team score of 318 earning 12th place, but coach Julie Laferniere is not as discouraged as the results might warrant. The score on paper still does not reflect what she believes the team is capable of, as some team members continue to struggle with health issues. Natalie Mako and Alexa Livingstone were held out of the race due to illness and calf issues.

“Without those runners the pack doesn’t stay quite as close as we would like it to, and our team is capable still of running better, so I have to continue to be patient like I have been all season,” Laferniere said.

While MacLean stood out finishing 14th and earning a medal with a time of 18:09, the pack time was spread a little too long at 1:06. The second runner in was Carly Zinner, who ran despite not being 100 percent, but performed well with a time of 18:33. Colleen Sands followed close behind in third with a time of 18:39.

The UMass women’s team has been frustrated the past couple of weeks not being at full health, and it the results have reflected it. Other teams within the conference will probably not be expecting much from the Minutewomen in a few weeks in Virginia for the A-10 Championships. However, Lafreniere and the runners are still confident the best performance of the team is yet to come.

“I’m still excited to see what we can do at full strength, and sometimes I can even get a little too excited and over ambitious. Sometimes I’ll have a workout scheduled that reflects it and it might be a little too much for the runners and I have to dial it down,” Lafreniere said.

Nick Souza can be reached at [email protected]