By GREG LAUDANI
The UNH women’s cross country team won its second straight meet on Saturday, defeating the Black Bears at the University of Maine on the strength of a Wildcats quartet that captured the race’s top four spots.
Alexandra Giese finished first in 19 minutes, 13.2 seconds to pace the Wildcats. Amanda Symanski snapped the tape for second place in 19:22.0. Hannah Kimball took third place in 19:39.8, and Kayla Farren finished fourth in 19:41.8. Cassandra Kruse rounded out UNH’s top five finishers at sixth overall in 20:07.3.
UNH head coach Robert Hoppler said prior to the meet that this would be a chance to develop some of the team’s younger talent. And even with some of their best runners sitting out Saturday’s meet, including captains Elinor Purrier and Laura Rose Donegan, the Wildcats were still able to beat the Black Bears on the road.
“It was a great performance for our team,” Hoppler said. “We sat seven runners and still beat them convincingly. I was very pleased with the effort.”
Having past running experience on a particular course gives cross-country runners an advantage. Giese and Kimball had both run at Maine’s course during the America East Championships last season, where UNH won its second consecutive conference title. Kimball placed 19th at that meet in 18:23.32 while Giese took 19th with a time of 18:38.12.
Hoppler said it helps runners to have run a course before, as they know what challenges to expect in terms of elevation and terrain.
Saturday’s meet also marked the resurgence of two UNH runners: Symanski and Farren. Both student-athletes have missed time throughout the last year due to injuries. Symanski did not run during the 2014 cross-country season and Farren was unable to compete during the indoor track and field season.
After both runners finished in the top four on Saturday at Maine, Hoppler said he was happy to see both runners have success after battling significant injuries.
“They were able to battle adversity and dedicate themselves to getting healthy,” he said. “It’s incredible the kind of commitment they showed while working with doctors and physical therapists to get back to being healthy and performing at a high level. They certainly add to the depth of our team.”
Even with the highly anticipated Oct. 31 America East title meet approaching, the team’s focus remains zoomed in on taking it one practice at a time. Hoppler described the focus in similar terms as a certain four-time Super Bowl champion head coach would.
“We still have five weeks to go, so we want to take it one step at a time like Bill Belichick would say,” Hoppler said. “We have to have good days of training leading up to our next meet.”
Next week the team is going to put in another 60-90 training miles before heading to Chestnut Hill for the Boston Coast-To-Coast Meet on Friday, Sept. 25.