Women's cross country ready for season-opener at Louisville
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 12:09
The UConn women’s cross-country team has one thing on its collective mind heading into this season: the starting line in Louisville.
The Huskies ended last season on a bittersweet note. Star runner Lauren Sara represented UConn at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN, where she finished 53rd out of 254 runners in what was her second career individual championship appearance. In doing so, Sara became just the fourth Husky runner, to compete in the NCAA Championships as an individual.
However, the bitterness came from the fact that the team failed to qualify for the team race, the benchmark by which elite cross-country programs nationwide are measured. Reaching the NCAA Championships in Louisville, KY is the end-all-be-all for the 2012 season, and for that reason, this year’s motto appears to be Louisville or bust.
As head coach Andrea Grove-McDonough put it, “We know that on paper we have the top five to make it happen.”
Despite last season’s ups and downs, Grove-McDonough has a lot to be excited about heading into the 2012 season. Coming off what was by all accounts a very successful 2011 campaign, during which UConn worked its way to its first national ranking in school history, the Huskies seem to have nowhere to go but up.
There is perhaps no better reason for excitement than the team’s intriguing mixture of established veteran leadership and young talent. Supplementing the team’s five returning runners will be battle-tested sophomore Lindsay Crevoiserat, who finished in ninth place in the 3,000m race at the IAAF Junior World Championships in Barcelona, Spain this summer and top freshman recruit Julia Zrinyi, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Zrinyi also impressed with a strong showing of her own at the IAAF Junior Worlds, where she won the 800m race for Team Canada.
“Julia and Lindsay coming in with some success on a National team has brought them an invaluable experience, and it helps the team as a whole by elevating the team profile,” said Grove-McDonough.
Lauren Sara is a runner who needs no introduction, as the junior has been the anchor for the Huskies for the past two years, both as a competitor and as a leader.
“[Lauren] helps by being a top scorer, and her experience at the NCAA championships helps our team understand that we are capable of competing there,” Grove-McDonough said. “She’s coming in running with a lot more confidence and something to prove.”
Apart from being the lone UConn representative at the 2011 National Championships, Sara also had several top finishes in regular season events, including finishing eighth at the Big East Championships, and sixth at the NCAA Regional Championships. The co-captain was also a USTFCCCA All-Academic selection. This season, Sara is expected to maintain her standing as one of the top runners in the Northeast.
Other key team members include senior co-captain Shauna McNiff, the defending champion in both the Indoor ECAC and New England 3,000m races, and junior Allison Lasnicki, who finished sixth at the CCSU Blue Devil Invitational, as well as inside the top forty at the Big East Championships last October.
But no matter how many talented runners coach Grove-McDonough has to work with, the Huskies can still count on facing stiff competition within the perennially stout Big East conference. Regional foes Providence and Syracuse have combined to win the past five Northeast Regional Championships, while 2011 National Champion Georgetown and reigning Big East champion Villanova are each ranked in the top five of the USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region pre-season poll. Needless to say, the UConn squad will face its share of challenges in its climb up the rankings ladder.
While it may not be quite safe to say that the UConn women’s cross-country team has arrived on the national stage, it cannot be denied that the squad is well on its way to becoming an elite, nationally recognized program. The team finished just barely outside the national top thirty last year, despite compiling five top-five team finishes and one win, coming at the CCSU Blue Devil Invitational. Returning such a large number of veteran runners from a team that finished the 2011 season ranked seventh in the Northeast Regional poll is sure to be a boon for UConn’s championship hopes.
However when the season ends, the UConn women’s cross-country team won’t be satisfied if it once again fails to reach the NCAA Championships as a team. “At the end of the day, we would rather be on the starting line without an NCAA ranking than watching the championships from home with a national ranking.” Coach Grove-McDonough said.
The squad has noticeably progressed during coach Grove-McDonough’s two-year tenure, and it would seem that, given the amount of returning talent, the next logical step would be for the team to meet its long-desired NCAA Championship goal in year three.
UConn opens the 2012 season at the Dartmouth Invitational on September 8. The event will be the first of many steps, all leading to the ultimate destination: Louisville.