Huskies head to NY for Big East Championships
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 26, 2012 00:10
On Friday, the Big East will come to the Big Apple, as the Bronx’s Van Cortland Park hosts the championship for one of the nation’s most coveted conferences in cross country. And the UConn men couldn’t be more ready.
“We’ve been preparing for the Big East Championships every week, all season,” stated head coach Rich Miller. “This is the central point of the whole season. It’s the meet to be our best at.”
When runners representing the 14 Big East institutions toe the line at 11:50 a.m. for the men’s eight-kilometer race, there will be much at stake for schools such as Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown. Each of these squads carries the pressure of earning a Big East title and defending their spots on the national rankings chart. While the unranked Huskies may not have their eyes on a conference championship or earning votes in the national coaches’ poll, their goals are lofty nonetheless. In fact, they may be even more challenging.
“I want them to be aggressive, race with confidence and race tough,” Miller said. Rising to the challenges and handling the pressure that comes with the prestigious meets will be key for UConn, especially considering the large amount of national-caliber athletes who will be competing Friday.
UConn’s No. 1 and 2 runners Ryan McGuire and Jordan Magath should rub shoulders with this elite group, as Miller said his top two could be capable of top-30 finishes. However, the main goal for McGuire and Magath is to improve upon their 2011 performances, where the pair finished 57th and 73rd, respectively. But with the strides these frontrunners have been making this season, better individual finishes should be within reach. Miller believes McGuire and Magath are stronger than last year’s two leading athletes.
As for the rest of the Huskies’ roster, Friday’s competition will serve as a much-needed opportunity for experience, and will serve as a measuring tool to see how they stack up against other runners of similar caliber. “I’m really excited about my third through seventh runners,” Miller said. “I’m looking forward to see them compete against comparable athletes.”
At the 2011 Big East Championships, Villanova ran away with the team title, winning the meet with a mere 43 points. The next three spots were fiercely contested, as just two points separated runner-up Georgetown from Louisville. Trailing Louisville by a single point was Syracuse, while Providence and Notre Dame completed a top-6 contingent of Division I powerhouses. Marquette, Cincinnati, DePaul, Rutgers, South Florida, Pittsburgh and Seton Hall constituted the rest of the 2011 field and should contend Friday as well.
UConn’s 10th place effort in 2011 was a strong showing for the Huskies, one that may be difficult to match this year. The 2012 squad lacks some of the exceptional depth that was present in last year’s pack, but the team will have other advantages on their side this coming Friday. In addition to improvements in the strength of their frontrunners, the Huskies will also be prepared for the varied terrain of Van Cortland Park that features several hills as well as grassy sections.
But perhaps UConn’s greatest advantage of all is their focused yet positive mentality toward racing at one of cross country’s highest levels. “We look forward to the competition,” Miller said. “We thrive on it; it helps us be better.”