By Melanie DaSilva
On Oct. 28, the men’s and women’s cross country teams battled for the Northeast Conference (NEC) Championship at Stanley Quarter Park in New Britain, Conn. The women’s team took home their fourth NEC title in five years, and the men’s team finished second, behind Central Connecticut State University.
Both teams recorded their lowest score ever in a conference championship, and head coach, Christian Morrison, was relieved and thrilled with their performances.
“It’s difficult to get five athletes to perform so well all on the same day, so when that happened for us on Saturday, I felt relief,” said Morrison. “Just knowing post-race that everything came together as it did, and knowing that all the hard work and dedication of our team had paid off.”
For the women’s team, receiving their lowest score in a conference championship earned them the conference crown. Seniors, Kate Svensen, and Tara Connelly, placed first and second, respectively, in the individual race.
“My mentality going into the race was to stay focused and determined on achieving our team goal. Last year we lost our title and as a team we were determined to regain it,” said Connelly .
Runners on the team said that even though people perceive running to be an individual sport, it is more than that. In order to be successful as a team, more than one individual needs to do well.
“I knew we had the personnel to win, but so many things can go wrong in a cross country meet,” said Morrison. “It’s difficult to get five athletes to perform so well all on the same day, but that happened for us on Saturday.”
The Pioneers have been ranked 15th in the region, in the latest U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s (USTFCCCA) Regional Poll.
“We have regionals coming up, and we have been regionally ranked for two weeks now, which is great, since our region is competitive,” said Svensen. “I am just excited to get out there, and have the opportunity to race with the best of them.”
As a whole, Morrison said that both teams have had a great season. He touched upon how they have had great individual performances, and how the women’s team won two invitational meets, and the men’s team won one meet leading up to the NEC Championships.
“To have our women win, and our men take second in the NEC, really put an exclamation mark on our season,” said Morrison.
Even though the men’s team also recorded their lowest score in a conference championship, it was not enough to give them the “conference crown.” According to Athletic Communications, the Pioneers have earned second place in three consecutive seasons behind Central Connecticut.
Sophomore, Gilmar Barrios, placed third in the individual race, which was better than where he placed his rookie season.
“I came in 15th place my freshman year, and missed All-Conference by one spot. That really gave me the motivation and drive to train hard over the summer and during the season,” said Barrios. “I’m just glad that it paid off.”
Barrios hopes that he will keep improving individually along with the team as a whole, by training to get better and stronger. He is also hopeful that they will do well in the upcoming Regional Championships.
The men and women’s cross country teams are both preparing for Friday Nov. 10, where the NCAA Division I Regional Cross Country Championships will takes place at the University of Buffalo, N.Y., at 12 p.m.