The men’s and women’s cross country squads are gearing up for their first competition of the regular season with intensified training and a focus on consistent physical health.
Both teams are pegged to finish two spots back in the Atlantic 10 from last year’s championship but return two runners who secured top-10 individual finishes. Runners said head coach Terry Weir increased the intensity and mileage of their summer workouts to come back to competition stronger than in previous years.
“Making sure that you’re there to get better and you’re not messing around, because that’s really what we want to do here,” said junior Jackson Cronin, who placed No. 8 at the A-10 Championship. “We want to place better than we have in previous years in the A-10.”
The Colonials are picked to finish 11th in the A-10, two spots back from last season’s finish and six spots back from the team’s fifth-place selection last year.
Despite the lower ranking, Cronin said he is confident in the Colonials’ ability to succeed in A-10 competition. He said personal improvements across the board and maintaining physical health are the most important benchmarks of the season.
“We can place well in the A-10,” Cronin said. “Really, I just want to see guys improve from the first meet to the last meet and just have guys stay healthy and work together.”
Last season, the team finished in the top half in all of its regular season meets but ended its season ninth in the A-10. The squad was coming off a program-best year in 2017 when the Colonials nabbed a third-place finish.
The squad will be without eight runners from last season’s team, including seniors Andrew Weber and Connor James, who consistently placed well for the Colonials. Cronin, Weber and James were the sole representatives for the men’s program at the 2018 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, placing No. 36, No. 47 and No. 109, respectively.
The Colonials added nine freshmen and a graduate student from Tennessee to the squad, amassing nearly half the roster. Cronin said the expectations for the freshmen will be higher because they account for a large percentage of the roster.
After opening last season with a first-place finish, sophomore Isaiah Robyne said the Colonials want to repeat the feat and maintain a strong, confident mentality throughout competition.
“We did very well and I think a lot of us would love to emulate that,” Robyne said. “Just getting our guys up there and just starting that way with this mentality that we are a team that can compete, a team that can run with the best of the best.”
On the women’s side, the squad returns nine runners from last season and looks to fill the gaps left by graduating seniors.
The Colonials lost six seniors to graduation, including Brigid Prial, Halley Brown and Madison Yerke, who were consistently high performers. Senior Suzanne Dannheim, who earned an eighth-place finish at the 2018 A-10 Championship, said the loss of top seniors may appear like a weakness for the team, but the departures have pushed the returning runners to step up.
“It was clear that a lot of people took on that new athletic leadership role over the summer and stepping into those spots that are now open,” Dannheim said.
The team is slated to finish ninth in the conference this season. The program previously earned back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the A-10 preseason poll in 2017 and 2018.
Dannheim said she noticed an increase in mileage in her summer training program, which she said will help the Colonials maintain endurance as they embark on a long season.
“It’s important to have a really strong bottom tier, bottom part of your pyramid, the foundation, where the mileage sits,” Dannheim said.
The squad secured back-to-back second-place finishes in its first two meets of the season last year on its way to a seventh-place finish at the A-10 Championship, the team’s lowest finish since clocking in at No. 10 during the 2014-15 season.
Junior Kathryn Nohilly said the team wants to continue improving from last season to measure its success.
“We always want to be improving so that’s one of our big goals,” Nohilly said. “Just to improve on everything that we did last year because we were really happy with a lot of our successes last year, and I do feel like a lot of us are coming back and building off of that.”
She said the first race of the season is an opportunity for the team to shake the rust off and ease back into competition.
“The first race is always more about getting back into competition because it’s been a long break for a lot of us who haven’t raced in a while, especially people who haven’t raced since like more toward the beginning of spring last year,” Nohilly said.
The Colonials are back in action Friday for the Mount St. Mary’s Duals at 11 a.m. in Emmitsburg, Md.
Belle Long contributed reporting.