After hours of running under the pounding sun this past summer, the women’s and men’s cross country teams are ready to race toward another successful season. The Mammoths’ 2022 season will begin with a trip to Middletown, Connecticut, on Saturday, Sept. 10, to compete in their season opening meet — the Cardinal Invitational.
Captain Mary Kate McGranahan ’23 explained that individual runners’ results in this event are not what that the team will put much weight on. Rather, they see their trip to Middleton as an opportunity for the team to get adjusted to racing again after a summer running on their own.
“We really just want everyone to go out there, put in a strong effort, and have fun racing with their teammates again,” McGranahan said. “Then we can use that effort and any lessons we learn from the meet as a base to build from for the rest of the season.”
The women’s team is coming off of a strong year, where the team placed well in several of their meets and recorded some stand-out individual performances on their way to qualifying for NCAA Nationals.
Sophomore Sidnie Kulik ’25 and McGranahan both had incredibly successful seasons in 2021. Kulik was the top Mammoth finisher at four of the team’s seven meets, while McGranahan was the top contender at the remaining three.
“Last year [in 2021], no one knew what to expect of me coming off of [the] Covid years,” McGranahan said. “Given my success last year, coming into this season there is definitely a lot more pressure [to perform] and I have more expectations of myself as well. Staying mentally focused on my goals despite that pressure, and most importantly, remembering to race happy, amongst all of that, is a big priority for me.”
With both Kulik and McGranahan returning this season, the Mammoths will keep two of their biggest assets on the course. They are supported by both a strong set of veteran runners and a high-potential first-year class. With that in mind, the team is excited for what’s in store. “I think the team’s energy is really high all around after realizing last year that we have a shot at placing well on a national stage, so it will be a fun season,” McGranahan said.
Not to be outdone by their counterparts, the men’s cross country team also had a successful run of races last year, including a trip to NCAA Nationals.
Billy Massey ’22 and Owen Daily ’23 led the Mammoths on the individual scoresheet. Having taken a year off during the onset of Covid-19, Daily returns as a captain for his senior year ready to lead the team into the new season.
But due to injury, Daily is unable to compete this season, so the team will be looking for others to fill the void left by the departure of last year’s major contributors. Captain Will Merhige ’23 explained as much, citing the team’s energy and willingness to learn as highlights of their first few weeks training together again.
“I am looking forward to seeing the team grow and progress throughout the season,” Merhige said. “We have a lot of guys stepping up to fill new roles this year, including a really strong first year class, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun when everything starts coming together.”
Like the women’s team, the Mammoths will compete in four meets before the NESCAC Championships at the end of October. They are hoping a strong set of results can put them in a similar position as their 2021 team — with members of the team competing at NCAA Nationals later this fall. “We are excited to surprise a lot of people and compete for NESCAC championships and national titles in the near future,” Merhige said.
One specific goal is to give arch-rival Williams, a perennial National title contender, a run for their money. “We always have our eyes set on Williams,” said Merhige. “It’s always a lot more fun when we’re competing against them. They’ve been strong for many years now, so we’re hoping to turn the tables this year. They’re in the running for the national title, so it bodes well for us if we can beat them.”