Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass womens’ cross country finishes strong despite dealing with illness and injury

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(Daily Collegian Archives)

(Daily Collegian Archives)

Looking back on its 2015 season, the Massachusetts women’s cross country team might have hoped for a better finish on the stat sheet.

But this UMass team, which was celebrating its 40th anniversary as a program, is a very young and talented group that’s only graduating two seniors in Carly Zinner and Molly McMahon. These two athletes will be missed, but coach Julie LaFreniere is very confident that her younger runners can step up and push for better results in the future.

The Minutewomen had their ups and downs throughout the season. They finished as high as fourth place at the Atlantic 10 championships, but as low as 27th at the Paul Short Invitational. Unfortunately for UMass, it also ran into illness and injuries along the way, especially the former.

LaFreniere is very experienced – she was a runner on the very first Minutewomen cross country team back in 1975 – so she knew that her team was not at full health for much of the season and acted accordingly.

“This team is a very hard working and motivated group,” LaFreniere said. “Sometimes, one of my girls would come to practice looking terrible. I would send them to bed. I remember one time when (Deidre) Martyn still wanted to run anyways. I would tell them that they would  be helping the team more by going home and getting some rest.”

While upperclassmen like Martyn and Zinner were having a hard time with illnesses, underclassmen like Brook Hansel and Renee Capps stepped up in crucial races for the Minutewomen. Hansel, a freshman, finished 110th overall in A-10s while Capps placed 97th.

“Running at the A-10 championships in Virginia was a great experience,” Hansel said. “I had a lot of fun and I got to run with great teammates.”

While Hansel and Capps got to gain experience with the varsity team, runners like Zinner and Alexa Livingstone worked hard to come back from their injuries so they could get back to their team.

“When you get injured yourself, you work really hard to come back; and when you do come back, you’re more driven to succeed,” Zinner said.

With UMass’ 19th place finish at the NCAA Regionals Friday, the Minutewomen’s season has come to a close. For now, they will work on strength and conditioning four times a week until they come back for the indoor track season in January.

LaFreniere is confident that the talented group will perform even better in 2016.

“Unfortunately, this season we were never healthy enough to get to the top. Next season we should be right there competing with the top two teams,” LaFreniere said. “Usually for our freshmen, it takes a full year for them to develop into the athletes they need to be. Come next August, they will be at another level.”

Tyler Movsessian can be reached at [email protected]

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