UConn women's cross country starts season with fourth place finish
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 23:09
The UConn women’s cross country team opened the 2012 season last Saturday at the Dartmouth Invitational in Dartmouth, N.H. The Huskies faced off against four regional rivals, including two nationally ranked squads in Georgetown and Syracuse. Rounding out the roster of teams was Division III powerhouse Middlebury, which finished in fifth place with a total of 154 points. UConn finished in fourth place with 78 points, Syracuse was third with 67 points, Dartmouth was second with 57 points and Georgetown was the winner with 33 points.
Top finishers for UConn were junior co-captain Lauren Sara, who placed second overall with a time of 23:21.50 - a mere 35 seconds off of Dartmouth All-American and 5,000-Meter NCAA Outdoor Champion Abbey D’Agastino’s first place time - and junior Allison Lasnicki, who finished fourth with a time of 21:32.70.
“I really liked what I saw out of Allison Lisnicki and Lauren Sara. Obviously Lauren is where we thought she’d be, and Allison is a little bit ahead of where I thought she’d be, so that’s exciting,” said Head Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough.
Of course, Sara finishing as high as she did comes as no surprise. After bursting onto the national scene with stellar performances week in and week out in 2011, Sara has placed herself firmly on the radar of every cross-country coach in the Northeast.
“People know who Lauren Sara is. She really made a name for herself last year, particularly with her sixth place finish at the NCAA Regionals behind a slew of studs and All-Americans and big-timers. She was in the lead pack at every single race. Lauren put our team on the map last year,” said Grove-McDonough.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the afternoon was freshman Abby Mace, who finished 22nd overall in her collegiate debut with a time of 22:34.60.
“Abby I think is going to really turn some heads throughout the season,” said Grove-McDonough. “She’s a kid who I thought all along had the ability, but I think there are coaches around the country who - if she does what I think she can - are going to say, ‘Who the heck is this Mace kid?’”
Of the nine UConn runners competing, seven finished inside the top 50, an exciting feat given that coach Grove-McDonough sat several of her top runners, including sophomore Lindsay Crevoiserat and freshman Julia Zrinyi.
On a more disappointing note, UConn dropped down one place in the USTFCCCA Northeast Regional rankings, where they now sit at seventh overall. The team’s relationship with the rankings has been a fickle one, as last year - despite being nationally ranked for a period of two weeks - failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships as a team. Qualifying this year has become the team’s primary objective and rankings have a lot to do with whether or not the Huskies reach their goal.
“If I can use [the rankings] to motivate the girls in any way, or myself for that matter, its a good thing. But as we found out last year, the only thing that matters is what you do on that day. All the rankings in the world aren’t going to help you. We were a nationally ranked team, and we didn’t get [to the National Championship], even though we beat a lot of teams that were there,” Grove-McDonough said.
UConn’s next meet will come on Sept. 22, when they return to action at the CCSU Ted Owens Invitational. Given that the competition at the meet won’t be as stiff as it was at Dartmouth, Coach Grove-McDonough already has a specific game plan in mind.
“Next week is such a different flavor, as you’re not looking at national powerhouse teams. Central is going to be for kids I’m looking to develop. Kids who maybe, by the end of the year, might have a shot to earn that eighth or ninth spot,” said Grove-McDonough.
Coach Grove-McDonough plans to unleash her top nine runners at the Griak Invitational on Sept. 29 in Minneapolis, but until then, she wants to get a feel for what type of depth she has to work with. After all, it is only September and as Grove-McDonough put it, “it’s a long eight weeks.”
Only time will tell if UConn has the depth to stay in it for the long haul.