By Sam Rabuck, Staff Writer

The UNH women’s cross country team won its second straight America East Conference title at the University of Maine on Saturday, scoring an impressive mark of 26 points, ahead of second-place Stony Brook (65 points). 

The Wildcats were led by sophomore Elinor Purrier, who claimed first place overall at the event with an impressive 5K race time of 17:19.42. 

“I know I’m in a lot better shape than I was last year mentally and physically,” Purrier said. “I just want to do as best as I can do.”

Purrier wasn’t the only Wildcat that boasted an impressive 5K time last Saturday. UNH runners Chelsey Serrano, Anne Twombly, Rose Donegan and Brianna Boden all finished in the top-10, earning all-conference honors and securing a first-place finish for the Wildcats. 

Head coach Rob Hoppler philosophizes that belief is integral to success and accredits the championship to his players’ belief in themselves and in each other.

“They have this group of 30 women that are believing in what they’re doing,” Hoppler said. “They really have a lot of belief in each other and in their training.  If we train well and do the right things that we need to do in training, they believe that that’s going to help them be successful.  It has a lot to do with belief, making good decisions, consistency and self-confidence.”    

Captain Serrano’s fourth-place finish to cap off her career has been particularly meaningful to her, as the superb finish hasn’t come easy.   

As a sophomore, Serrano placed 14th at the America East Championships, improving from her 22nd place finish as a fresh

man.  Although her finish as a sophomore was solid for an underclassman, Serrano realized that with some hard work and more dedication to running and dieting, an all conference finish would be well within her reach. 

“Once I started improving from freshman year and saw that I was fast enough to run with the conference team, I started to think, ‘If I’m doing this well, why can’t I do what some of the upperclassman are doing?’” Serrano said.

The results were there.  As a junior, Serrano cracked the all-conference team by placing tenth.  Refusing to be satisfied, Serrano continued to improve and showed herself as an elite runner in the conference by finishing fourth with a time of 17:47.86. 

“[Serrano] has just continued to get better during her time here,” Hoppler said. “When we talk about consistency and progression and developing over a career, she has epitomized that.” 

Also placing well for the Wildcats were juniors Samantha Blaise 18:11.51 and Amber Short 18:12.45 who finished 11th and 12th, respectively. 

With Saturday’s championship under the belt, the Wildcats look to make some noise at the NCAA Regionals hosted in the Bronx, New York on Nov. 14 at 1 p.m.