UMass cross country teams compete in Friday’s rain-soaked Paul Short Invitational

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 journeyed to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Friday afternoon to compete in the rain-soaked Paul Short Invitational. Consisting of 27 teams in the men’s race and 35 in the women’s race from up and down the east coast, the Minutemen finished 15th with a score of 402 while the Minutewomen placed 27th in their field of competition.

Georgetown University placed first in the deep men’s field with a final score of 37. They were followed by second-place Villanova (56) and a sharp drop-off with third-place University of Guelph (160). From an individual standpoint, Patrick Tierman of Villanova finished first in a field of 278 runners.

The UMass men’s team managed to have eight runners finish under 26 minutes. Leading the way for a second week in a row was senior Ben Groleau with a time of 24 minutes, 54 seconds en route to finishing 46th overall.

Jay McMahon was the Minutemen’s next runner to cross the line at 70th overall (25:12), followed by Daniel Sheldon at 86th (25:18) and Samuel Conway at 96th (25:24). Paolo Tavares rounded out UMass’ top five with a time of 25:44 earning him 131st overall.

According to Minutemen coach Ken O’Brien, Friday’s rainy conditions impacted their approach to the race.

“The runners expressed to the coaching staff that they felt they were ready to take on a more aggressive strategy and starting of the race closer to the front of the pack,” O’Brien said. “In these conditions, the start is a little more crucial because the muddy ground really cuts down on traction.”

The UMass men’s team continues to see positive reinforcement that the team’s training, and growth is moving along as planned. According to O’Brien, the team’s finish at this meet in past years have varied greatly from the top to near the bottom of the field. While Friday’s performance was a middle-of-the-pack finish, it was better than the team’s previous three results at the meet.

“I always look for the team to do better in every meet than they did the previous year and I think they showed today that (their) strength is both in depth and balance,” O’Brien said.

Youth shines Friday for Minutewomen

The Minutewomen’s race Friday was relatively spaced out in its scoring with the University of Guelph taking first at 105 points. In second place was Cornell University with 155 points while John Hopkins finished third with 180. The first runner to cross the line out of 313 runners was Blanca Fernandez of Temple with a time of 20:27.

UMass struggled for the most part in the meet largely due to illness that spread through the whole team. Many runners struggled with varying stages of a head cold that depleted their ability to perform at 100 percent. However, they did not make excuses, which pleased coach Julie LaFreniere.

“The results don’t really reflect the capability of our team, I know what they are capable of and I think they do too, but I’m happy with their attitude and the effort they showed today,” she said. “They ran a gutsy race.”

The first runner to finish for the Minutewomen was junior Heather MacLean with a time of 21:39 at 62nd overall. Coming in at fifth on the team was freshman Sydney Clary running in only her second cross country race of her life.

The former high school soccer player posted a time of 22:59 and finished 193rd. While the pack was more spread out this week, LaFreniere said she expects the group to come back together as the team approaches the championship season.

The UMass women’s team is also beginning to see the potential of its freshmen class begin to show, as three of its top seven runners were freshmen. Alexa Livingstone, Sydney Clary and Brook Hansel all ran near the front of the group for the Minutewomen. Combined with sophomore Colleen Sands and MacLean returning for next year, the UMass’ future seems to be bright.

The men’s and women’s teams will be looking to start off the championship season next weekend at the New England Championship in Boston.

Nick Souza can be reached at [email protected]