By GREG LAUDANI
Cross-country runners spend most of their time competing against themselves, focusing their energy on pushing through long, grueling training runs to prepare for the few opportunities to show other teams what they’ve got.
The UNH men’s cross country team finally got its first chance to do so in its season opener in College Woods on Saturday morning.
Senior captain Brendan McCarthy finished first for the Wildcats and seventh overall in 16:01.77 to boost UNH to second place against Providence College and the College of the Holy Cross. Providence ran away with the victory after sweeping the meet’s top five finishes, giving the Friars a perfect score of 15 points. UNH scored 39 points to secure second, with Holy Cross falling to a third-place finish of 78 points.
McCarthy said he was excited to get out on the course and get the new season underway.
“My legs didn’t feel like they have enough yet, but I was still happy with how I ran today given the heat,” McCarthy said.
UNH freshman Matthew Geraci placed eighth overall just behind McCarthy, clocking in at 16:02.49. Geraci’s success in his first collegiate meet correlates well with the meet’s main theme: youth-driven potential.
“I thought everyone performed pretty well given the age group that we have,” McCarthy said. “We have a very young team.”
UNH head coach Jim Boulanger is excited about the young talent on his team. He raced 19 athletes Saturday morning: eight were freshmen and six sophomores. Boulanger said he was excited to see young runners like Geraci step up when given an opportunity.
“We wanted to see who is ready to race and see the kids put themselves in position to compete,” he said. “You are looking for signs in the kids to see if they are able to put themselves in good position early, or put themselves back in the meet later on.”
Following the meet, McCarthy raved about the potential of UNH’s underclassmen.
“We’re a really young team and we don’t have much pressure on us because we’re so young,” he said. “But I think we’ll surprise some people and our young guys, along with our older guys, are going to step up.”
The Wildcats travel to New York on Sep. 12 to take on America East rival Stony Brook, the host of this season’s conference championship meet on Oct. 31.