By GREG LAUDANI
Senior Amber Short crossed the finish line in 17:39.96 on Saturday against Providence and Holy Cross, finishing fifth overall to guide the Wildcats to second place in their first meet of 2015.
Providence took the meet, recording a score of 16 points, with UNH nabbing second with 39 points, and Holy Cross rounded out the meet with 78 points. The meet is the Wildcats’ lone home meet of the season.
Short, who joined the team as a walk-on in 2012, has been a consistent runner throughout her career in Wildcat blue.
Last season she came in second against Providence and Holy Cross, and also notched a key victory in the 10,000-meter race in the outdoor track and field conference title last spring. After pacing UNH in Saturday’s season opener against a strong No. 5-ranked Providence, head coach Robert Hoppler spoke about how far Short has come.
“For her to run with some of the best athletes in the country, that shows how much she’s improved over her four years,” he said. “I think she had a great run.”
Senior Samantha Blais finished shortly behind Short in seventh place at 18:05.10. Following the meet, Hoppler spoke about how Blais and Short have made significant leaps over the course of their four years in Durham.
“For those two as seniors to mix it up with Providence, that’s a testament to them and how much they have improved,” Hoppler said.
After Blais, senior Brianna Boden took eighth (18:22.44), junior Sarah Keiran finished ninth (18:32.22) and freshman Shannon Murdock took 10th in 18:35.69.
Team captains Laura Rose Donegan and Elinor Purrier did not race Saturday. Hoppler said their absence has nothing to do with injury and everything to do with the team’s conference title hopes.
Hoppler said he wants his squad’s top runners to be at their best when UNH competes for its third straight America East championship on Oct. 31. The Wildcats have won back-to-back league titles and are hungry to grab another at Stony Brook.
“The No. 1 goal is to win our third America East title in a row,” Hoppler said. “We’re building towards that meet. This meet was the first stepping stone toward that.”
Now in his 12th season coaching at UNH, Hoppler said he believes his runners have the “building blocks for a really successful team.”
UNH continues its quest for a conference three-peat when it heads to Stony Brook for its pre-conference meet, the Wolfie Invitational next Saturday, Sept. 12. Stony Brook is also a member of the America East conference.
After the Wolfie Invitational, the Wildcats will have only a handful of meets to prepare for the conference championship, which will also be held at Stony Brook.