Senior leadership helped the UNH women’s cross country team unleash a dominate performance at the New England Championships this past Saturday, claiming its third New England championship in four years. The ‘Cats were able to claim first overall as senior Sarah Keiran led the charge placing sixth with a time of 17:59.9. UNH collected 71 total points, ahead of Harvard’s 131 and Vermont’s 152.
Coming in right behind Keiran was freshman Melissa Menghini in seventh place (18:02.1) and fellow freshman Margaret Champagne in ninth (18:06.6).
“The game plan was to run with [Kieran] and they were able to execute. They’re two talented young athletes and they’re doing a good job adjusting,” head coach Robert Hoppler said of his freshmen. “It’s a quick turnaround for a freshman to be running well in the fall and I’m sure you’ll see it in all fall sports…for them to be doing what they’re doing says a lot about them as athletes and what their future could be, they’re pretty talented kids,” he said.
Placing next for the ‘Cats were seniors Hannah Kimball and Amanda Szymanski. Kimball was 13th and completed the 5-kilometer course in 18:16.6 while Szymanski placed 36th in 18:36.9. Being the teams number four and five runners, their role is crucial as depth runners to make sure they displace other team’s runners. “(I’m proud of the) two seniors Hannah Kimball and Amanda Szymanski, you’re not winning any cross country races unless the four/five do their job and they did a great job and were able to put us in the position to get the win” said Hopper of his depth runners.
While the ‘Cats were able to squeeze four runners into the top 13, next week looks even more promising for improvement as standout junior Elinor Purrier is scheduled to run. Purrier had a long year of hard running last year and with another one just like it ahead of her being patient is key to longevity.
“This one was theirs,” said Hoppler of his seniors and their performance. “A lot of superstars have graduated and they’ve seen a lot of that, and today they won one on their own, with certainly some help from the freshman. This is a new group of kids and certainly it’s really gratifying for them to get a win and get a championships and now we’ll be able to build on this for the rest of the season.”
The women’s team will compete next on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Terre Haute, Ind. for the pre-national meet.
On the men’s side, senior Mitchell Dutton made a great improvement to his time, as he placed 34th in a race of 221 runners. His time of 25:33.1 is significantly faster than the time of 26:09 he put down at the same course about a month before. Dutton was the first runner for his team while sophomore Brett Hoerner finishing 52nd in 25:49.7. Overall the ‘Cats finished 17th out of 34 teams.
“Timmy Kenefick is showing signs of being tired and we kind of fell off after that. Cody (Symonds) came back to 26:46 which was a good sign and then we had a lot of good performances in the sub varsity race, so we have a lot to work on,” said coach Robert Boulanger. Kenefick had been the ‘Cats leader in races before this one.
“You got to find that balance where you can race when you’re feeling tired and I think a lot of people don’t get it and some of the kids don’t get it. You can’t feel 100% because if you do then something else isn’t right. I really like what we’re doing training wise and we had a good team effort,” said Boulanger on his team’s training.
The ‘Cats were still able to work on their pack running despite the size of the race. Symonds, Hoerner, Kenefick and Dutton were all near each other through the three-mile mark, where after Hoener and Dutton were able to pull away.
“(We’re) trying to keep the upperclassmen in the battle for top ten in the conference and trying to get them to improve. Overall very happy with the front three, and still trying to find some more in the wonderful game of cross country,” said Boulanger.
The men’s team will compete next in Stanley Park, Conn. Friday, Oct. 21 for the Central Connecticut State University Mini-meet.