Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s cross country looks to finish season strong in IC4As

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Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian

Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s cross country team will send eight members to Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, New York for the final meet of the season at IC4As Saturday afternoon.

Following the regional and conference championships, several of the Minutemen’s top-tier runners will not make the trip. However, that does not diminish coach Ken O’Brien’s expectations for his team.

“We want the strongest performance we can possibly get from our team, they still represent UMass and that should be enough motivation,” O’Brien said. “I definitely don’t want us to look bad.”

He described the meet as the equivalent of college basketball’s National Invitation Tournament for the cross country season. Much like the NIT, the IC4A meet used to carry significantly more importance on the schedule when it served as the qualifier for the NCAA national championship. UMass often followed this path to the NCAAs, which it qualified for several times under O’Brien in the 1970s.

The IC4As now comprise of a field of talented teams that did not make it past the regional meet. It serves as an opportunity for runners who didn’t qualify for the Atlantic 10 or regional team to compete at the end of the season. This meet helps O’Brien get started on his plans moving forward and give his more experienced runners a rest.

“My philosophy is that the season is a long one,” O’Brien said. “With back-to-back championships at the end of the season where you put out the best your team has, it’s best to let those runners rest.”

The UMass delegation will consist of freshmen Michael Famiglietti, Zach Frahlich and Eric Waterman, as well as  upperclassmen Morgan Marlow, John Burns, Miles Hodge, Bryan Howard and Ben Thomas. The Minutemen will not be short on talent, as Famiglietti, Thomas and Marlow competed at A-10s three weeks ago.

“A lot of these runners cracked the top seven on our team at some point during the season, just not toward the end,” O’Brien said. “Now they are auditioning for next year.”

However, many of the Minutemen running Saturday will compete for the first time in five weeks. The team has tried to replicate competition-like environments in practice, but O’Brien acknowledged the difficulty of simulating such circumstances.

“I want them to be excited about running for the first time in weeks, but it would still be unfair for me to expect too much from them,” O’Brien said.

Despite the smaller rosters and lower expectations, UMass has consistently recorded solid performances in the past. In the university division of this meet last year, the Minutemen finished eighth out of 16 teams in the field. This year, they expect more of the same.

Saturday marks UMass’ final meet of the season.

Nick Souza can be reached at [email protected]

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