Cross Country Visits Buffalo For Northeast Regionals
ALBANY, N.Y. – Championship season continues for the University at Albany men’s and women’s cross country program. Friday, the teams will travel to Buffalo for the Division I Northeast Regional Championships. At stake for the top team and individual performers is a berth into NCAA Championships.
This year, Regionals begin a three-year stint at the Audubon Golf Course in Buffalo. It is the first time since 2011 that the championship race will be held here, and the first time since 2013 that the race has not been held at either Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx or Franklin Park in Boston.
The Syracuse men have won six of the last seven regional team titles. Iona broke through in 2012 to deny Syracuse what would have been its fourth-straight title. The Providence women have won the last two team titles, and four of the last five, with Iona once again breaking up the streak in 2014.
The last time UAlbany competed was America East XC Championships two weeks ago. The men placed third overall behind champion Stony Brook and runner-up UMass Lowell with 87 points, and the women placed fifth with 113 points.
“From a team perspective the men had to run real well and get lucky besides to place higher than third,” said head coach Matt Jones. “Unfortunately, we got unlucky. Ryan Udvadia gets stepped on in the first 50 meters of the race, and has to step off and put his shoe back on. So, 100 meters into the race our top guy is dead last. Coming by the mile mark he was about 30th, and ended up 11th overall. Despite that, we ran okay, not great. Even if Ryan runs what he should have we wouldn’t have improved our position. Stony Brook ran very well, UMass Lowell ran well. We ran better than average and got third.
“On the women’s side, I thought we were going to match up better with Stony Brook and Vermont,” Jones continued. “We ended up fifth out of nine, but I thought we should have gotten by Vermont. Stony Brook ran really well, and there’s not much we could have done about that. New Hampshire ran great. I honestly thought that we had enough talent that if we ran a little bit better we should have been fourth. But we were sixth a year ago and we were fifth this year, so we’re moving in the right direction. Up front, Hannah Reinhardt and Cara Sherman ran very competitive races, and then Colleen Maloney and Holly Machabee also ran well.”
Individually, Udvadia and Kyle Gronostaj earned All-Conference Second Team honors for the men, while on the women’s side Reinhardt earned First Team and Sherman earned Second Team honors. Additionally, Gronostaj won the men’s Elite 18 Award for holding the highest GPA among the top finishers.
“Kyle winning the Elite 18 award was a shock for us,” said Jones. “We always hope for those things but they never really come through. To be the best academically is pretty impressive. It’s a tremendous award. I think he was shocked to get it but very excited at the same time. “
“He heard the GPA and knew it was him,” said Associate Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Todd Wolin. “He heard the number and said ‘that’s my GPA’ and jumped right up. He was smiling ear to ear, he was so happy about it.”
“The coach knew it another way,” said Jones. “I knew what place it was and knew it was him.”
In the two weeks since conference championships the team has undergone another training cycle. But since championship season for cross country lasts several weeks with multiple championship-level meets, the training at this point in the season takes a slightly different form.
“I still think we continue to improve fitness in the beginning of the training cycle for championships,” said Jones. “Currently, we’re all about enhancing our current level of fitness. We’ve cut back on some of the volume and we’re allowing for more rest without losing quality.”
Friday’s championship course takes place on the Audubon Golf Course, and will be hosted by the University of Buffalo. The women have drawn Box 13 in their 39-team field, and the men have drawn Box 10 in a 38-team field.
“The course is flat at Buffalo,” said Jones. “It’s been raining there, and its supposed to rain every day there until we race on Friday. So I expect it will be very challenging both mentally and physically, and that’s what we have to be prepared for.
“We’ve been there in the past,” Jones continued. “It’s not very hilly, and when it’s dry the terrain is good. But the weather conditions could change everything. I don’t think we can prepare specifically for those conditions any more than we’ve done; you just need to have the right frame of mind going into the race. You have to be able to race tough, not lose your focus, and not get discouraged. Be ready to embrace it.”
For the first time this season, the men will run a 10K, having exclusively run 8K races to this point in the season. The women will be running their second 6K of the season having previously tackled the distance at Lehigh’s Paul Short Invitational, which has so far arguably been the best race of the year.
“The 10K is a learning experience. On the front end Ryan, Kyle, and Victor Ortiz Rivera have all run 10K before. We’re looking to improve on what they’ve done in the past. Jake Johnson has run a 10K last year, and Tyler Ranke has run 10Ks. We only get to run seven this week, and the 10K will be a new experience for Christopher Perillo and Jonathan Gay. But our top five are seasoned at this distance. Just like anything in this sport everything is a work in progress.”
Last year at Regionals, the men placed 24th out of 35 and the women placed 22nd out of 37. Neither team placed an individual in the top 90.
“We didn’t run great at Van Cortlandt a year ago so the job this week leading up to the race it to point out how we can improve on that performance,” said Jones.
While focus on the team is the primary goal for this race, there does exist the possibility for some Great Danes to advance and qualify for NCAA Championships under the right conditions.
“If they’re on top of their game and things break in their favor, I think Ryan and Kyle could qualify for nationals. If you look at last year, the Boston College runner who qualified was nowhere on the radar. Individual qualifiers change with how many teams go. So I’m rooting for three teams to qualify, which would give an opportunity for more individuals. But Ryan and Kyle have done the work and they’re experienced enough to pull it off.
“When Silvia Del Fava and Brittney Lane finished right next to one another a few years ago, we had to wait for the team selection,” Jones continued. “Silvia qualified and Brittney didn’t. But Brittney would have if Boston College made it as a team, but they didn’t. So you have to run well and get lucky. Probably one of the toughest ways to get to nationals is to qualify as an individual for cross country.”
The final message, as always for Coach Jones, is simple and straightforward.
“I just want the teams to have their best effort,” said Jones. They’re going to need to be rested and focused and they’ll have to execute the whole race. Take what you have and execute to the best of your ability.”
The women’s 6K will begin Friday, November 10 at 11:00 a.m. The men’s 10K will follow at 12:00 p.m.