The New Paltz men’s and women’s cross country team’s competed in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Championships on Saturday, Oct. 28, where the men’s team finished in eighth place and the women’s team made history by finishing in third, which is the first time in program history that the team has finished above fourth in the SUNYAC.
Leading the way for the women’s team was second-year Megan Reilly, who finished fifth overall with a time of 22 minutes, 54 seconds. Trailing not too far behind Reilly were fellow second-years Emily Cavanagh, who finished 14th with a time of 23:57.1 and Vanessa Morgan, who finished 20th with a time of 24:13.6. Hawks head coach Mike Trunkes was proud of the women’s team’s record-breaking third-place finish.
“Our goal this season for the women was to finish inside the top three at conference so it was exciting to see them achieve that goal,” Trunkes said. “The differential between us and Plattsburgh was very small, just five points. We had some very solid efforts on Saturday but our best race is yet to come.”
The women’s team only finished behind SUNY Geneseo (who are currently ranked third in the nation by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association) and SUNY Plattsburgh, who only finished five points ahead of the Hawks, as they finished with 44 points, compared to the Hawks’ 49 points. Trunkes also talked about how the course that was run on for the event was difficult, which made the women’s team’s performance even more impressive.
“This course was tougher than some of the other courses we ran on during the season because of how hilly it was, which is not typical for a course,” Trunkes said.
First-year Cassandra Williams was the third runner from the women’s team to cross the finish line, as she finished 22th overall with a time of 24:16.8. Williams thought that there were many factors that led to the team’s success this past weekend.
“An important aspect of racing is the mental part and everyone’s positive and optimistic mental landscapes going into the race had a huge impact,” Williams said. “This comes not only from the top five finishers, but also from the network of support provided by the entire team. This past week’s performance couldn’t have happened without every girl.”
Leading the way for the men’s team were fourth- years Barrett Celecki and Stephen Smith, as they were the top two runners for the men’s team, finishing 37th and 47th with times of 28:39.9 and 29:11.3, respectively. Trunkes pointed out that Smith was dealing with “a stitch” throughout the SUNYAC event that may have hindered his performance. Despite being the first runner from the men’s team to finish, Celecki thought he performed below his expectations.
“Finishing 37th was definitely not where I wanted to finish, but each race is different and this one just happened to be one where I didn’t perform well,” Celecki said.
Celecki went on to add that the team is looking forward to running on a faster track for the next meet rather than the hilly course raced on for the conference championships.
“We are not focused on team placing, but rather on individual performance and the personal records of my teammates.”
Other noteworthy performances from the men’s team include first-year Ryan Tso finishing 82nd with a time of 30:37.6, while third-years Brendan Sutta and Thomas Rizzo finished 85th and 90th with times of 30:49.9 and 31:08.6 respectively.
Up next for both teams is the NCAA Regionals in Houghton, New York on Saturday, Nov.11.