Cross country teams wrap up seasons
Matt Gad – Sports Writer
The men’s and women’s cross country seasons have largely drawn to a close for the Owls, at least in team competition, but graduate student Laura Morrison still has more to give.
“I joined the team for the last two meets of the season and I feel that it was successful,” Morrison said. “Comparing our conference meet to our regional meet, I think we had strong performances from each individual and we improved overall as a team.”
The women’s team finished their year together by claiming 19th place at regionals, capping off a season highlighted with strong performances in a schedule that included the Adelphi Panther Invitational, the Kirsh Cup, the Ted Owen Invitational, the Paul Short Invitational and the New England meet.
Morrison, who ran at SUNY Fredonia for two and a half seasons, protected her remaining eligibility after two years of indoor and outdoor track and one year of collegiate cross country, running on her own before joining the Owls while pursuing a master’s degree in education.
“Overall, it has been a great experience. The team has been more than welcoming and I’ve enjoyed competing with them,” she said. “I’m already looking forward to the indoor and outdoor seasons.”
But not too fast: she will represent the entire program at the Nov. 18 NCAA Championships in Evansville, Indiana. The last Owl to make these kinds of strides was Natasha Fitzpatrick, who was a force for Southern, also in cross country, after coming to school here from her native Australia.
On the men’s side, they finished their year after success as a third place team at the Adelphi Panther Invitational, a first place team at Paul Short and a 13th place team at NCAA Regionals, which were held in Buffalo, New York this year.
“Nice sloppy, wet course. [It] was completely underwater for the most part,” assistant cross country and track and field coach Brian Nill said. “It wasn’t too, too fast but we were pretty pleased with the results; we moved up from 19th last year to 13th this year.”
Nill said getting to these championship meets feels like it takes forever but then everything goes very quickly. The season began at the beginning of September and now draws to a close in early November after seven meets, the latter three being the prestigious championships that everyone looks forward to.
“Freshman year for cross country is always the hardest season,” Nill said. “Moving up from 5K to 8K to 10K, it’s a long race for a lot of those guys. I think they adjusted well and if we stayed healthy we could’ve been a top 10 team in the region but you get the bumps and bruises along the way… it’s college distance running; you’re gonna get hurt along the way.”
But in the final meet of the season two freshmen made an impact in Gavin Woodward and Shawn Odei-Nitri, who finished second and third for Southern. Woodward ran 37:15.7 and Odei-Nitri crossed the line in 38:10.8.
“I think my season went alright but it wasn’t what I expected” Odei-Nitri said. “But as a freshman you can’t really expect much moving up from 5K to 8K to 10K. You have to go into it a little uncertain but as long as you stick to your training plan you can always assume that you’re gonna run a projected time. We won the white division at Paul Short, we did very well at conference and we did really well at the regional meet; for a lot of the guys the regional meet was their first time running a 10K so, with the conditions thrown at us, I feel like we ran pretty well.”
And while the program is comprised of mainly younger talent, the men will be without Steven Cugini and Ryan Flach next season and the women will miss Morrison, Michelle Hesse and Claudia Marsh.
Photo Courtesy: southernctowls.com