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Gagnon leads men to 7th place finish

The University of New Hampshire’s men’s cross country team traveled to Stony Brook University on Saturday to compete against the rest of the conference at the America East Championships.
Sam Gagnon paced the Wildcats, placing 13th overall and leading UNH to a seventh place finish. Gagnon cruised through the 8-kilometer race, crossing the finish line in 25 minutes, 29.17 seconds. Saturday’s race was a career day for Gagnon, beating his mark at last year’s championships by over 14 seconds for his top finish at the conference finals.
Gagnon’s achievement also earned him Second Team All-Conference honors, the team’s lone All-Conference distinction.
Heading into Saturday’s meet, it was unknown whether Gagnon would even race. The senior was dealing with an apparent hamstring injury that caused head coach Jim Boulanger to question if his top runner would cede his position in the event.
“On Tuesday, he could barely jog around the track. We weren’t even sure until Thursday; it felt better, and today he put himself into position early, around [the 30th position] and worked his way all the way up to 13th,” Boulanger said. “He really did a solid job of working his way up throughout the race.”
Junior Mitchell Dutton finished in 27th, posting a finish time of 26:10.24. Sophomore Timothy Kenefick secured the 34th position and finished in 26:27.44, followed by junior Ryan Chiesa in 36th with a time of 26:33.29.
Drew Piazza, a sophomore outdoor track and field phenom, finished the race at 43rd overall with a time of 26:42.94. Freshmen Brett Hoerner and Cody Symonds rounded out the final UNH finalists of the race with 45th and 58th place finishes.
“Our goal is to try and be in the top five and I feel that we gave it our best and we’re hoping for a little better,” Boulanger said. “They ran tough coming from the back trying to get us into position. [I] don’t feel that we got out quite the way we should have, but overall, it was a good race for this group.”
The Wildcats are slated to compete at the NCAA Cross Country Regional Championships on Friday, Nov. 13 at Franklin Park in Boston.
But as the group continues to battle injuries, Boulanger suggested the team may review its schedule.
“We’ve got to decide whether or not we’re going to be going to the Regionals meet, because right now, we have a lot of little injuries and I’m not sure we can put together a group that’s going to be able to string it out over a 10k,” he said. “We’re going to have to look at it over the next two weeks of training and see where we’re at. We’ll make the decision in terms of health.”

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