UMass men’s and women’s cross country sets sights on Atlantic 10 championships

Postseason kicks off in Virginia this weekend

%28Jon+Asgeirsson%2FDaily+Collegian%29

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

By Sean Richardson

This Saturday, the Massachusetts men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel to Pole Green Park in Mechanicsville, Virginia for the Atlantic 10 championships. This meet kicks off postseason racing for each program, as the regular season came to a close in Connecticut last Friday.

The women will start off the day at 10 a.m. with a five-kilometer race, while the men will follow and compete on a five-mile course at 10:50 a.m.

Both head coaches have emphasized that A-10’s is the focal point of their season and what they have been building toward since day one.

However, the Minutewomen have been plagued by illness this season. Two of their top five runners, Caroline Clark and Serena Sarage, are suffering from anemia and the team is not at 100 percent.

“We’re still going to race [Caroline and Serena] as long as they feel well Saturday morning,” said coach Julie LaFreniere. “But they’re both low in iron and not where we hoped they would be by the end of the season [due to their conditions].”

In addition, talented freshman Samantha Schwers has been battling pneumonia all season and hasn’t raced since the Battle in Beantown in mid-September.

Consequently, LaFreniere rested her top athletes last week at the Central Connecticut State University Mini Meet to ensure each is well rested and healthy before the championship meet.

Two runners that LaFreniere is still intrigued by are freshman Alexina Hurley and sophomore Colette O’Leary. The former has been one of the top competitors for UMass all season, while the latter has grown more and more comfortable after sitting out all of track season with an injury.

“I envision the two of them being pretty close together,” said the coach. “They each have been the number one [athlete] on our team at two different contests. Colette is more of a middle-distance [runner], while Allie [Hurley] is mile, two-mile, but those two should be ready to run very well.”

Meanwhile, the men’s team has enjoyed a very successful regular season of racing, thanks in-part to new head coach Tim Ritchie.

Earlier this month, Ritchie continued his triumphant inaugural campaign by winning the New England championship for the first time in program history. Massachusetts scored just 84 points and beat second-place Northeastern by a comfortable 32-point margin.

UMass placed two in the top 10 and another three in the top 25. Junior Dawson Bathgate lead the Minutemen, finishing the eight-kilometer course in 25:09, with teammate Michael Famiglietti coming in just 10 seconds after him for ninth place.

Bathgate has shown steady improvement in the past year and has established himself as the number one runner for the Minutemen.

“Dawson’s been great for us, not just with his race results, but with his intensity and the energy he’s been bringing to practice every single day,” Ritchie said. “I think he’s gonna go down [to Virginia] and lead the way for us, both from a mental, emotional standpoint and from a results standpoint.”

Ritchie also believes that Bathgate is capable of being all-conference, which requires a competitor to finish in the top-15 at the A-10 meet, and believes that other teammates such as Famiglietti, Kendall Westhoff, and Erik Engstrom could join him.

With plenty of talented athletes at their disposal, the Minutemen are one of the favorites to take home their first A-10 cross country title in over 10 years.

However, the first-year head coach isn’t overlooking the likes of Dayton, who has won the past two A-10 cross country titles, while St. Joseph’s, La Salle and George Washington also have strong squads that will fight UMass tooth and nail to be this year’s champion.

“They’ve [Dayton, St. Joseph’s…etc.] all been running great all season long, so I think this race is going to be very close. It’s gonna come down to a handful of points separating the top five teams. We believe we can be in that mix and these guys are ready to fight for every point they can get.”

After the A-10 championship, the UMass men and women will race again in two weeks at the NCAA regional championships in Buffalo, New York which will conclude the women’s team’s season. While the men will race one more time a week later in the Bronx at the IC4A Championships for their final race of the 2018 campaign.

 

Sean Richardson can be reached at [email protected].