Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams struggled against the odds to be successful in last weekend’s Atlantic Regional Championships.
After the horrid conditions at the Rochester Invitational last month, the rainy, muddy and cold conditions of the championships were a walk ? well, run ? in the park for the women’s cross country team. Despite what coach Barbara Hartwig called “a less than perfect day to run,” the team improved upon last year’s performance, in which she said they “had high aspirations but didn’t do very well.” This time around, they managed to finish eighth out of the 29 competing teams. Regarding last weekend’s race, Hartwig said, “We did much better than last year. I was very pleased with the results.”
Hartwig said of the tough running conditions “it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before. It just wasn’t a big deal to us. They worked very hard, stuck together and didn’t let the cold weather and rain bother them. They showed a lot of maturity in their performances.” As they had competed in even worse conditions earlier in the season and were used to practicing in bad weather, the weather may have actually give the UR women an advantage over teams that she said “may have been a little bit intimidated by the conditions.”
Although the team failed to reach its primary goal of making the national championships, Hartwig was certainly pleased that “they gave it their best shot.”
Part of what made it such a good weekend was the improvement that the team has made throughout the season, culminating at Regionals with the smallest gap between the first and fifth runner all year. From the top finisher, senior Mary LeBrun, who crossed the line in 24:42 through fifth finisher, junior Lisa Brassaw, who finished in 26:23, the split was just 1:41. Most impressive about LeBrun’s day was that despite the weather, she had her best time of the season.
LeBrun’s efforts earned her a 39th place finish. She was followed by junior Elizabeth Canfield, who finished the race in 25:02 in 45th place. Despite Canfield’s unsuccessful efforts to reach Nationals, Hartwig commended her efforts, stating “she’s been so strong for us all season.” Lisa Johns finished just three seconds and one place behind Canfield. Next for UR was freshman Jessica Van Binsberg, who completed the six kilometer course in 26:05 as she finished in 77th place.
Hartwig was quick to praise her departing seniors, who she said “did a really nice job of giving the team leadership and supporting the team. They left us on a good note.” Already looking ahead to next year, she added “we have a nice core of individuals for next year.” Hartwig said of the culmination of the cross country season, “It’s a good feeling to finish the season on a positive note. I’m very excited about starting the [indoor] track season. We really have a lot of momentum for a good track season.”
After last week’s positive rebound from the University Athletic Association championships, the men’s team looked to continue their momentum and end the season on a high note when they headed to the Regional Championships. The results weren’t exactly what the team had hoped for, but considering the injuries that have plagued the team during the past several weeks, they weren’t disappointed with their very respectable 14th place finish out of 33 teams.
Coach John Izzo said of the finish, “If we had been 100 percent healthy going into the race, we all would have been disappointed with the same results.” He added “I don’t think anyone was fully satisfied, but given the circumstances, the team ran pretty well. There was no one who had a bad race who didn’t have a reason for it.”
Throughout the season, the team has been led by senior David Messenheimer, and the Regionals were no different. Although he failed to finish first on the team for the second consecutive race because of injuries that Izzo said he “felt badly about,” that he was even able to compete and complete the race had a positive effect on the team.
The team also benefited from the return of junior Alex Voetsch, who overcame last week’s injury that prevented him from finishing the race at the New York State Championships to post a very solid performance. But despite his rebound, he and Messenheimer were both affected by their injuries, which prevented the team from being at its best. If the injuries didn’t have a big enough effect on the team, they also had to battle poor conditions.
For the second week in a row, UR’s top finisher was freshman Chris Nolan, who crossed the line in 57th place overall, finishing the eight kilometer race in 27:44. Additionally, Nolan was the 6th fastest freshman, a sign that he should be a cross country force for the next three seasons. Behind Nolan was junior Alex Voetsch, who completed the race in 28:07, good enough for 72nd place. Coming in third place for UR and 83rd overall, sophomore Dan Duett finished in 28:24. Right behind him was senior Justin Panarese, with a time of 28:26 and an 87th place finish.
Regarding next season’s outlook, Izzo said “our intentions for next year are to be significantly better than where we finished this season. Now we have to regroup and get ready to come back for the start of the track season.”