In its second outing of the season, the Massachusetts men’s cross country team placed 13th in the Battle in Beantown Friday afternoon. Eighteen teams competed in the race.
Led by sophomore Erik Engstrom, the Minutemen placed their top five runners within 27 seconds of each other on Boston’s famous Franklin Park course. Engstrom completed the 8K course in 25:32, and was closely followed by teammates Dawson Bathgate (25:47), Jackson Southard (25:52), Mike Famiglietti (25:57) and Kendall Westhoff (25:59).
“The fact they were all able to run together was huge,” said coach David Jackson, describing his team’s pack-running skill. “They’ve been working on that and I think they took a good step today.”
UMass faced significant obstacles that it hadn’t yet encountered this season. Competing at the meet were several nationally-ranked teams, including Syracuse (No. 3) and Illinois (No. 27). This, in combination with stormy conditions, made it tough running for the Minutemen. Despite the roadblocks, Jackson offered praise for his team’s determination.
“Everyone won some sort of little battle today,” he said. “Engstrom did a great job.”
UMass is already looking down the road to Oct. 7, when it returns to Franklin Park for the New England Championships. Jackson stressed that the New England meet is a milestone, but not the ultimate goal.
“Our objective is and will remain A-10s,” Jackson said. “For right now, we’re building. We’re in the next phase of our training.”
Rounding out the Minutemen finishers were Eric Waterman (26:05), Michael McDonald (26:06), Jack Adamski (26:22) and Christopher Polanco (26:46). Junior Zach Frahlich ran 16:22 in the Open 5K race, placing 23rd.
Illinois teammates Jesse Reiser and Jonathan Davis crossed the line nearly simultaneously in 24:13 to secure first and second place.
Syracuse won the meet with 35 points, while Illinois placed second with 56 points.
Women’s Team Places 15th Behind MacLean
The Massachusetts women’s cross country team placed 15th in Friday’s meet behind strong running from redshirt senior Heather MacLean, who finished the 5K course in 17:23. The time was good enough to give her seventh place.
“Heather MacLean is a national quality cross-country competitor as she proved at Friday’s race”, said coach Julie LaFreniere after the meet. “She ran a smart race from the gun.”
Following MacLean were teammates Colleen Sands (18:35), Colette O’Leary (18:46), Serena Sarage (18:53) and Caroline Clark (19:06).
The Minutewomen faced 20 mile-per-hour winds and periodic rain, a stark contrast from the weather they enjoyed at the Minuteman Invitational two weeks before, when they placed second on their home course.
However, LaFreniere would not allow the weather to be an excuse for her team.
“The weather is the same for all competitors,” she said. “I prefer a cool rainy day over heat and humidity.”
UMass competed against three NCAA ranked teams, No. 7 Providence, No. 18 Indiana and No. 25 Georgetown. LaFreniere believes competing against these teams only makes them stronger.
“We were eight points behind UAB, nine points away from Illinois, and 11 points out of top 12,” she added.
This was the first chance to face ranked competition for the team’s four freshman, two of whom, Collette O’Leary and Caroline Clark, placed in the Minutewomen top five.
“Our freshmen are doing a great job,” LaFreniere said. “I’ve seen improvements every week.”
Junior Brook Hansel (19:15) and sophomore Mary Lavery (19:20) rounded out the team’s top seven, while freshman Catherine Curtin finished in 19:37. In the Open 5K race, the Minutewomen were represented by junior Alexa Livingstone (19:29), senior Grace Bailly (20:19), senior Samantha Allen (20:45) and senior Anna Capps (20:52).
Elinor Purrier of New Hampshire won the women’s race in a time of 16:49. Providence took the meet with 71 points.
The next step for UMass will be the New England Championships on Oct. 7 at Franklin Park.
Will Katcher can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @will_katcher.