Cross country gears up for conference meet

Leslie Combs

This afternoon the Wildcats will take to the line on the Boston Franklin Park’s cross country course for the Big East Championships. For the men not only does it mark the first time the entire team will gather at the starting line, but today’s event will also be the 2002 racing debut of top runners senior Adrian Blincoe and junior Ryan Hayden.

The coaching staff made the decision early in the season not to race either runner until the Big East Championship in order to provide both with more training time. “It is a definite risk,” men’s assistant coach Scott Tantino said. “However, they are well-seasoned athletes so we should be okay.”

While the Big East is the first of ’Nova’s three important post meets, it is not the pinnacle meet of the season, thus further justifying the extensive training and lack of competition of Blincoe and Hayden thus far.

With the addition of Blincoe and Hayden in the lineup, the ’Cats are expecting to provide tough competition for the other top teams of Georgetown, Notre Dame and hometown favorite Providence.

“We are not favored to win, but it is our team goal,” Tantino said. “We have not won a title in awhile, and we are strong enough to do it this year.”

The reason why success looks to be on the ’Cats’ side this fall lies primarily with the increased depth on the men’s team. Alongside Blincoe and Hayden, seniors Tom Parlapiano and Jon Fasulo form the likely front foursome for ’Nova. Each man has the ability and strength to score anywhere in the top 10, including taking the title. In years past, the trouble has come to the ’Cats in regards to the labeled fifth man, but this year there is an abundance of men stepping up to fill the shoes of the final scoring position. Seniors Jason Jabaut and Andrew Cameron, and junior Pat Dunn are joined by newcomers Milos Metric and Marc Pelerin as the guys who will be racing for the crucial fifth spot.

“Anyone could realistically be fifth man, and that is a unique situation,” Tantino said. “Normally we are just hoping someone will step up; now we are wondering which one.”

Two favorites coming into today’s race that are expected to challenge the ’Cats quest for the conference title are Providence’s Adam Sutton and Rod Korbosi of Georgetown, but with no injuries the ’Cats are looking to set the record straight in Massachutes. After an intense season training, there is no doubt in the men’s mind that they can win the meet.

“We are going to surprise some people,” Blincoe said with a smile.

The women are also optimistic about the outcome of their performance at the Big East today.

“I think if everyone goes in there and runs well we are capable of top three,” women’s head coach Gina Procaccio said.

Georgetown and Notre Dame, both currently ranked in the top ten in the nation, along with home coarse advantaged Providence are all favored to battle it out up front for the conference title.

Individually, Notre Dame’s Lauren King and Molly Huddle is expected to race West Virginia’s Megan Metcalfe for the championship.

Leading the ’Cats will be sophomores Ioana Parusheva, Kalin Toedebusch and Marina Muncan, all capable to finishing in the top 10, with junior Rebecca Mitchell very close behind.

“She could be right up there in the top 10, top 15,” Procaccio explained. “We have a really good top four. It is one of the best top four in the conference.”

The fifth runner looks to be freshman Liz Gesel who is also running very well thus far this season.

With no injuries plaguing the women either and today also marking the first time the teams has run together this fall, the ’Cats are eager to see the results.

“They are right where they should be in training,” Procaccio said. “We are excited to see what we can do together.”

The men will take to the line for their 8k race at 11:30 a.m today, while the women will follow up with their 12:20 p.m. start to their 6k race.