By Kendall Gregory
The Sacred Heart University cross country team started off their season strong with performances at the Saint Francis University Father Bede Cross Country Invitational. Their first meet on Sept. 2 ended with the men’s team placing first overall out of six teams, with the women’s team placing second out of nine.
Two Pioneers stood out amongst the rest, each in their Sacred Heart debut. Graduate student Connor Rog and freshman Jody DiCicco, each received NEC Weekly Honors. Rog was named NEC Male Athlete of the Week, while DiCicco was named NEC Female Rookie of the Week.
“I really wasn’t expecting it,” said DiCicco. “I was initially nervous, but I always think of the mindset, ‘just see what happens.’ I didn’t expect anything from it. It was a nice surprise.”
The freshman from Berlin, CT placed third with a time of 19:51, only one of three to break the 20:00 minute mark. Having only run Cross Country for a year in high school, DiCicco was the fastest freshman on the field and the only freshman to place in the Top 10.
Coach Christian Morrison was quite pleased with how DiCicco has started her season.
“I didn’t know what to expect from Jody because she is a freshman, and you never know how a freshman will adjust to college running. Fortunately, she has made a smooth transition thus far,” said Morrison.
Rog, a graduate transfer from the University of Virginia, completed the 5k with the time of 16:03. This time gave Rog his first collegiate Cross Country win.
“This was a huge deal for me, especially for someone who had taken a while off of racing and did not necessarily know how it would all pan out,” said Rog. “It was a big confidence booster for me and brought me reassurance that I was truly back to the runner that I once was.”
Rog took his senior year off from competitive running before returning to compete for the Pioneers.
“I realized what I wanted to do with my life and found the path that I wanted to take, but I also really did miss being in shape and I missed the ‘high’ that I got from running,” said Rog.
Rog and DiCicco followed up their NEC Honors performance with another strong outing at the University of Massachusetts CC Invitational. Rog placed second overall for the men, with DiCicco having a personal best of 18:11, the second fastest program time in program history.
However, the cross country season is long from over.
“I think they’ll both keep working hard and taking good care of themselves, so they can go on to be successful in our championship meets later in the season,” said Morrison.
The Pioneers next meet will be the Fairfield University Victor F. Leeber CC Invitational on Sept. 24.