Cross Country Visits UMass Lowell
ALBANY, N.Y. – Just one week after competing in the season opener, the University at Albany men’s and women’s cross country program will race again, this time at UMass Lowell’s championship course at Mine Falls Park in Nashua, N.H., which will be the site of the America East XC Championships in October.
Last week, the Great Danes placed second in the men’s and women’s team competitions at Vermont’s season opener, featuring the Catamounts and UMass Lowell. The women’s 5K race featured a 1-2 finish from junior Hannah Reinhardt and senior Cara Sherman.
“Even from our test effort from a week ago I thought it was a pretty good opener for us,” said head coach Matt Jones. “Hannah and Cara finishing first and second was great, but the reality of that is UMass Lowell didn’t have their top group. I think they’re the best returning team in the conference. Vermont was bunched, and one of the things we have to work on is getting in the middle of Vermont’s pack. They were fourth a year ago and we were fifth. We have the hard part done; we’re beating them up front. We need to do a better job closing the gap and compressing one-to-five and one-to-seven. That’s the goal. But we’re in a good spot.”
In the men’s 8K race, junior Victor Ortiz Rivera claimed individual victory, gapping the field by 32 seconds. The men’s only other top-10 finisher was junior Charlie Ragone, who placed 10th.
“UMass Lowell and Stony Brook are probably the best teams in the conference,” said Jones. “Vermont is young as well. I thought Victor is right where he needs to be. He followed his race plan and won handily, and looked good doing it. Now, the key is how close we can get the other five or six guys.”
With such a quick turnaround between meets, there isn’t a lot of time for Coach Jones to address any areas he felt needed work in the season opener. However, there are three weeks following this weekend’s meet before the team races again that will allow Jones to develop a quality training cycle.
“We don’t have an opportunity to work on much this week, so the focus is staying healthy,” said Jones. “We’re still in transition and pre-conditioning, and that’s understood. We’re going to this meet this weekend to become familiar with the course. Afterwards, we have a break in the middle of our season to go to work. We’ll get two quality workouts a week and three weeks to train before our next meet. It’s a nice training block after we have gotten back into our regular routine of school. The real work will start next week, and we’ll see how we develop.”
The primary purpose of the Pre-Conference meet is to provide the competing teams an opportunity to experience the championship course under race conditions before the championship meet arrives. This is the second straight year the Great Danes will take advantage of the opportunity, after electing to race elsewhere the previous three seasons.
“This weekend is a recon mission,” said Jones. “We’re gathering information about our conference course. We’ll have to be mindful of starts, finishes, wide/narrow, grass/dirt/road, and things like that. We chose between Pre-Conference and Pre-Regional, and we want to put our best foot forward at conference championships.”
Ultimately, the team will look to stay healthy through this weekend’s race, and further prepare themselves for not only the championship season to come but also for the bulk of the training schedule that will prepare them to perform at their optimal level when it matters most.
“The goal this week is to stay the course, and then to be ready to transition into the real meat of our training program in the next four-to-six weeks,” said Jones. “We’re still transitioning, and we’re still conditioning, but after we get in some level of fitness we’ll raise the bar to the higher-quality workouts because we’ll have time to recover from them.”
The America East Pre-Conference Meet will feature the host Riverhawks as well as Binghamton in the Bearcats’ first race of the season.