By SAM ROGERS
As the America East conference championship and the NCAA tournament meet loom in the next few weeks, the Wildcats women’s cross-country team had one final tune up. On Friday the Wildcats finished in 10th place at the Central Connecticut State University Mini Meet.
As the tournament season draws closer for the Wildcats’ team, a new strategy was used in Friday’s meet. This meet was the team’s first 3-kilometer race of the season. Considering the shorter distance, and with the most important races of the season coming up, head coach Robert Hoppler had to change his normal racing formula.
Taking a different approach on Friday, Hoppler wanted to use his middle distance runners to run fast and to incorporate some younger members of the team so they could develop. Hoppler said after the meet that he was “very, very happy” with the results his team put up.
Leading the charge for the Wildcats was sophomore Kayla Farren, who placed 10th overall with a 10:29.5 finishing time. Angelyn Masters, another sophomore, finished at 10:49.7, which was good for 29th overall. Junior Katherine Estep finished 50th overall with a time of 11:04.7.
Junior Casey McGrath and freshman Carina Berglund finished at 83rd and 90th, respectively, posting times of 11:31.9 and 11:40.7. The younger runners and middle distance runners showed to be an effective group as Hoppler’s Wildcats ran strong from the top to the bottom of their lineup.
Coach Hoppler was most impressed with the improvement of his team. Last year at this same meet, Farren, a Nashua native, ran the 3-kilometer race in 11:11.2. This year’s race marked a 42 improvement. Masters ran the 2014 Mini Meet in a time of 11:24.7, which was 35 seconds slower than this year. The improvements are huge in just a year’s time.
While the Wildcats seemed content with their top-10 finish Friday, Hoppler knows they can’t be relaxed next week at the America East Championships. The Wildcats look to be in playoff form, but other teams in the conference are also racing well, which pose a challenge for the two-time defending champion Wildcats.
“We’re excited for the challenge ahead,” Hoppler said. “Albany, Stony Brook, UMBC are all running well.”
Coach Hoppler does not want his team getting overconfident as the defending champions in the conference. With a three-peat in question, the Wildcats cannot rest on last year’s team’s laurels.
“It’s a completely different team,” Hoppler said about this year’s squad. Only time will tell if this year’s Wildcats have what it takes to run their best when it counts.
As all nine America East schools line up for the championships, UNH will have the biggest target on its back.
“It’s an exciting day,” Hoppler said in advance of the meet.
The America East Championships will take place at Stony Brook University on Oct. 31.
Tuning up, Wildcats good for 10th at Mini Meet
By SAM ROGERS