The cross country teams debuted at the annual Amherst Invitational on Saturday. The men’s team finished third overall, behind Keene State College and Wheaton College. Considering that several of the team’s experienced members were not competing, the men had a particularly strong showing. Meanwhile, the women’s team completely dominated its race, easily cruising to victory past Keene State, Wheaton and Springfield College.
Men’s Cross Country
The men’s team placed third overall at the Invitational with 61 points. Keene State won the meet with 30 points, followed by Wheaton in second with 52 points. The University of Southern Maine finished behind Amherst with 76 points.
The team’s senior co-captains, Matt Katz and Dave Molina, placed sixth and seventh to lead the way for Amherst. First-year Tomas Morrisey came in just 13 seconds later, placing ninth overall. Sophomore Cooper Knowlton finished 20th, followed by first-year Mike Harbus in 21st to complete the five scoring runners for Amherst. The sixth and seventh runners for the Lord Jeffs were sophomores John Babbot and Rich Wilson, who placed 23rd and 27th, respectively.
The men approached the race with a laid-back mindset. “It was a great, low-key way to start the season,” said Katz. “We got to introduce the freshmen to college cross country in a low-pressure, friendly environment.”
“When Jack Morgan [’05], Nate Freese [’07] and David Schreiner [’06] are back in action, we should be one of the best teams in New England,” said Katz. The team has several runners out with minor injuries who hope to rejoin the team soon.
The team hopes to build on last year’s success, when the men’s team qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time in Amherst history. Even with the graduation of two of the team’s top runners from last year, the men have the depth to recover from the loss. “Our goal remains to return to Nationals and put in a strong showing, and [our performance on Saturday] showed that we have the depth to seriously push the envelope of Amherst cross country history,” said Katz.
Women’s Cross Country
The women led from the start, and kept the competition at bay throughout the duration of the 5K race. The Jeffs easily beat out the other teams with an impressively low score of 20 points. Keene State (55 points), Wheaton (85 points) and Springfield (87 points) all finished well-behind the Amherst women.
Not surprisingly, Amherst’s two All-Americans, senior co-captain Carter Hamill and sophomore Shauneen Garrahan, finished in first and second place. First-year Kim Partee came in less than 30 seconds after Garrahan to place fourth overall, followed by another first-year, Heather Wilson, in sixth place. Junior Margaret Davis rounded out the top five scorers, finishing right behind Wilson in seventh place overall. Amherst’s sixth runner, junior Ginger Polich, came in 10th.
“The women, as we proved on Saturday, will be very tough to beat this year,” said Head Coach Erik Nedeau. “We have a rare combination of a huge one-two punch at the front, and incredible depth in the remaining scoring spots, and I think that by the end of the season we should be a contender for a national championship-that being the ultimate goal for the season.”
The women approached the race with a somewhat relaxed attitude as well. “It was more of a hard workout for us today,” said Hamill. “Our times and place didn’t really matter.” Hamill is excited and impressed by the “really strong freshman class,” which included not only Partee and Wilson, but also first-years Laura Mortimer and Meg Ray, who finished 12th and 20th.
The women’s team has started the season on a very high note, which bodes well for a squad favored to contend for a national title this year after finishing fifth at the NCAA Championship meet last year.
The Amherst Invitational was certainly an exciting and encouraging season opener for both teams, who justifiably have high hopes for the upcoming season. Both the men and women’s teams will competing again on Sept. 18 at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.