By GREG LAUDANI
Following their third straight America East title, the Wildcats added another achievement to their list in what has been an outstanding season for the UNH women’s cross-country team.
New Hampshire placed 10th at the NCAA Northeast Regional Meet on Friday at Boston’s Franklin Park, even without the services of one of its top runners.
Senior Laura Rose Donegan steered the Wildcats with a sixth-place finish as she clocked in with a time of 20 minutes, 42.5 seconds. UNH collected 308 points on the afternoon while Providence College claimed first place with 49 points and Syracuse University came in second with 92.
Donegan’s results Friday later granted her an at-large bid into the NCAA Championships on Nov. 21 in Louisville, K.Y. She led the Wildcats on Friday as she has all year as one of the team’s co-captains. She has finished first for the Wildcats in each of her five meets and was an instrumental part of UNH winning its third consecutive conference title on Oct. 31.
The senior’s effort at the NCAA Regionals also marked a significant improvement compared to her time at the meet last year, as the senior outdid her time of 21:11.6 and 31st-place performance from a season ago.
The Wildcats still ran an impressive race without senior Brianna Boden, who sat out Friday’s race due to injury, according to UNH head coach Robert Hoppler. Boden finished within the top four UNH finishers in each of her five meets this season.
Hoppler said he was proud of how all six runners stepped up in Boden’s absence.
“I was happy with the way the rest of the team responded and I thought they ran really well and really hard,” he said. “We finished 10th and one of the goals of this program is to always be in the top 10 at this meet.”
Donegan just barely missed an automatic bid to compete at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 21 in Louisville, K.Y. She placed one second behind Harvard’s Courtney Smith, who was the fourth individual to grab an automatic bid. The top two teams and their runners receive a bid, and then the next four finishers not on those teams also earned a trip to Louisville. Donegan just missed it.
Donegan and senior Amber Short each earned All-Region honors for placing within the meet’s top 25. Short crossed the finish line second for the Wildcats and 21st overall in a time of 21:17.1. Both Donegan and Short claimed All-Conference First Team distinctions after leading the Wildcats to their third straight title at the America East Championships.
“This is a big step and a big accomplishment for both of those athletes,” Hoppler said. “I think both really showed their strengths and their competitiveness in this meet, and that was very exciting.”
According to Hoppler, Friday marked the third time in which two Wildcat runners received All-Region honors in the same meet.
Following Donegan and Short was sophomore Amanda Symanski, who came in at 69th overall with a time of 22:15.6. Senior Samantha Blais was fourth for New Hampshire after placing 100th overall (22:36.1).
Freshman Shannon Murdock and junior Sarah Keiran rounded out the Wildcats’ six runners. Murdock snapped the tape in 22:44.1, which was good for 112th overall. Keiran capped the race for UNH with a time of 22:46.3 at 115th.
Following the meet, Hoppler sang his praises for a team that has been impressive both on the course and in the classroom.
“This team certainly lives up to the goals of the program,” he said. “They’re great students and they’re really dedicated to being great athletes as well. We were able to walk away with winning the conference championship this year and be 10th in the region.”
“That’s a lot of accomplishments and we had four people All-Conference and two people All-Region, so I’m really happy with the dedication and their commitment to excellence,” Hoppler continued.
Donegan will race in Kentucky on Saturday, Nov. 21. The rest of the team has a short break before the track and field season kicks off on Dec. 4 against America East rival Maine.