UConn men's cross country finishes second at Ted Owens Invitational
For the second time this season, Ryan McGuire led the University of Connecticut's cross country team to a second-place finish at the Ted Owens Invite on Saturday. McGuire covered the eight-kilometer course in 25 minutes, 55.31 seconds to secure a third-place finish, while Jordan Magath maintained his position as the squad's No. 2 runner with a sixth-place effort in 26:03.45.
As a team, UConn challenged for the win but fell just short as Northeastern, paced by individual champion Wesley Gallagher, bested the Huskies 43-58 at New Britain's Stanley Quarter Park. However, the remaining eight teams in the 10-team field proved no match for the Huskies, who outscored third-place finisher Hartford by 60 points. Host Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), the only regionally ranked program at Saturday's invite, finished a dismal sixth, 82 points behind UConn.
McGuire and Magath repeated their race tactics from last week's Minuteman Invite, as both athletes ran with the front pack. While both runners got off to a fast start, Gallagher surged midway through the race and McGuire and Magath couldn't respond. The middle kilometers were more difficult for the top two Huskies Saturday, especially compared to the Minuteman Invitational. But both athletes worked hard to finish strong. Despite the weakness during the middle kilometers of the race, they also showed significant improvements over their performances from the 2011 Ted Owens Invite. "McGuire and Magath were 30 to 45 seconds faster than last year, which is very encouraging," Miller said.
Connecticut's runner-up performance at the Ted Owens Invite is especially commendable, considering that the team relied heavily on its inexperienced runners - particularly freshmen - who were new to competing at the collegiate level, as well as new to racing the eight-kilometer distance. The team's usual third, fourth and fifth scorers, seniors Joe Clark and Tim and Alex Bennatan, opted to forgo the race in order to train hard through the weekend. Although the Huskies still had frontrunners McGuire and Magath, the following three of the five scoring spots were left for the underclassmen to fill.
The young Huskies rose to the challenge. Freshman Alvaro Chavez recorded a spectacular debut as the third UConn runner to cross the line with his 14th-place effort and a time of 26:35.85. While Miller knew Chavez would have a strong performance, he didn't know just how good he was going to be.
"Chavez did even better than in training and in practices," Miller said. "He showed he can compete at a high level."
Sophomore Steve Vento and freshman James Agati were the final two scorers for the Huskies, finishing in 24th and 26th place, respectively. Also part of UConn's top seven on Saturday were freshmen Dan Murnane (34th place) and Zach Patsy (64th place). Rounding out the Connecticut contingent was freshman Phil Caldwell in 65th place.
The Ted Owens Invite showed UConn's exceptional depth and versatility, as they proved they could place well without three of their key athletes. Miller admitted that with all of his upperclassmen racing, the Huskies would probably have won the meet. However, UConn's sights are on the championship meets to come. When the championship season kicks off with the New England Championships on Oct. 7, UConn cross country will be in full display for the first time in 2012.
"We'll have our best team compete," Miller said. "Our confidence is really good and we keep getting stronger. We're excited about where we are right now."
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