New Britain, Conn. The Men’s and Women’s cross country teams competed in the 2017 Northeast Conference championships over Halloween weekend. Saint Francis (Pa.) senior Bryce England won the men’s 8-kilometer race with a time of 25:37.2, while Sacred Heart University’s senior Kate Svenson dominated the women’s 5-kilometer race, winning with a time of 17:34.3, 28 seconds ahead of the runner-up.
Hosted by Central Connecticut State University, the Blue Devils took home the team trophy on the men’s side with 33 points, while the Pioneers of SHU claimed first place in the women’s race with 24 points. With the win, the CCSU men have now won nine consecutive NEC XC team titles.
The Mount men placed fourth in the eight-team race with 103 points. They were paced by junior Nicholas Fransham who finished in 26:27.1, good for eighth overall to make All NEC-Conference. Joining Fransham for All NEC-Conference honors was first year Isaac Kole who finished in 14th place with a time of 26:50. Senior captain Christopher Evans finished third for the Mount with a time of 27:09.5. Junior Benjamin Finnigan and sophomore Mitchel Wileczek rounded out the Mount’s top 5 finishers placing 26th and 38th respectively out of 66 runners.
Despite a fourth-place team finish for the second year in a row, Evans says “definitely no regrets. Setting big goals is what it is all about.” He added that, “It’s been a good ride. I’ve made a lot of good friends. I’ve definitely developed a deeper passion for the sport.”
Assistant cross country and track & field coach, Christopher Fitzsimmons believes that the men did the best they could have done. “Everyone did their job. Overall, I think we performed up to the way we were supposed to do.” He explained that when he looks at the results of all the teams throughout the season, “A lot of teams are not putting out, who ran today. We thought [CCSU] was weaker than they were, and they dominated.”
On the women’s side, the Mount placed seventh out of 10 teams with 197 points, just narrowly being edged out of 6th place by Robert Morris University’s score of 196.
Junior Ashleigh Kocher was the Mount’s top finisher, crossing the line in 34th place with a time of 19:45.1. Fellow junior, Clarke Hooper placed 41st with a time of 19:56.5. Finishing with a time of 20:00.6, close behind Hooper was sophomore Maddie Kole (43rd). First year duo Adria Pirozzi (45th) and Alexandra “Lesha” Kay (56th) rounded out the Mount’s top five finishers.
Senior captain Jill Greenwald thinks that next year the team will grow even stronger. “They have a pretty tight pack. A lot of the freshmen have a ton of potential,” she explained. “Everyone is pretty young, and I think they will definitely improve and place better next year.”
Thinking along the same line as Greenwald, Fitzsimmons pointed out that last year, the women placed 6th with a runner finishing inside the top 10 and that this year, they finished seventh by a point. He added, “the team is better, but they didn’t show it today.”
Kole, who earned All NEC-Conference honors and NEC Freshmen of the Year by placing seventh at last year’s conference championships was largely absent from racing this season due to health injuries throughout the year. However, Fitzsimmons praised her ability to persevere, saying, “her resilience was pretty amazing, with her out there on the course to come and be our number  girl. She came out and was very tough.”
Fitzsimmons and the team will now prepare for the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional meet in Bethlehem, Pa. on Nov. 10.