The Fairfield University men’s and women’s cross country teams ran in their first race on Friday, March 5 since Nov. 15, 2019. This year and a half-long pause is shocking no matter the circumstances, however it is important to note that the Stags’ return to the course happened to be for the 2020-2021 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship, which usually takes place in the fall. After such a long pause, it is surely unusual for their season debut to be at a meet of this caliber. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meet was moved to this spring, luckily giving the rosters’ seniors an opportunity to close out their career.

“It’s been a challenge for sure,” said Scrivines,  “but our student-athletes and coaches have worked through it and remained positive and optimistic.”

Going into the afternoon, head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams David Scrivines had high expectations for the runners. “Our goal was to move up one place in both races,” he said, referring to the teams’ placements from last season. On the men’s side, in 2019 they finished the meet in ninth place of the eleven teams competing. Unfortunately, this year the men were not able to achieve this goal set by coach Scrivines, placing in ninth again, but this time out of ten teams represented at the meet. The Fairfield men’s average time for the 8,000 meter race was 28:35.38, placing them just ahead of St. Peter’s University who managed an average time of 30:37.72. Fairfield’s average time was about a minute slower than that of last year’s MAAC Championship (27:32.59), however this marginal difference was to be expected considering the volatility of this year’s practice schedule, as it pertained to COVID changes. 

Unsurprisingly, sophomore Robert Dillon ‘23 led the charge for the Stags, placing 22 out of 127 male runners. He clocked in a time of 25:47.44 for the 8k race, shaving off approximately a minute and a half from his rookie performance at the 2019 MAAC Championships, where his time was 27:11.99, leaving him in 47th place. Other notable showings were put on by twin brothers Pacifico Flores ‘23 (28:36.42) and Devin Flores ‘23 (28:37.59) who finished back-to-back in 96th and 97th place respectively, as well as Timothy Burschinger ‘23 (29:53.85) in 111th place and James Vizzzard ‘23 in 113th place (30:01.58). The top four runners for Fairfield were all sophomores, speaking to the capabilities of the underclassmen on the roster. 

The final five finishers on Fairfield’s men’s roster were Thomas VanderSlice ‘23 (31:05.40), Mike Dzubia ‘21 (31:43.16), Bryce Zapusek ‘23 (32:09.02), Benjamin Breton ‘21 (33:46.56) and Connor Secora (34:04.22) in that order. The men claimed spots 121 to 125. For the 30th consecutive season, the Iona College Gaels have taken the top spot as the 2020-2021 MAAC Men’s Cross Country Champions, with an average 8k time of 24:31.55. The Gaels claimed the top seven spots of the meet, with graduate student Jack O’Leary being the fastest male runner (24:28.10).

The women’s team was able to one-up their own performance from last year, sitting pretty in seventh place of the ten participating teams. Last year they placed eighth out of eleven rivals. The women Stags average time was 24:22.37 for the 6,000 meter race, sandwiched between Rider University (24:07.77) and Manhattan College (24:35.30). Of the 112 runners, three runners represented Fairfield at the top half of the leaderboard, namely Courtney Kitchen ‘23 (24:11.45, 50th place), Jane Frawley ‘22 (24:15.25, 51st place) and Anna Weissenberg ‘23 (24:18:00, 53rd place). 

Fairfield’s final two scorers were Catherine Lanahan ‘24 (24:32.47) who showed up strong at her first collegiate meet and Mia Melao ‘22 (24:34.66) who was the fastest Stag at last year’s championship meet with a time of 23:44.24. Just behind Melao was Molly Silvestri ‘22 (24:37.84) in 65th place. 

Much like the men’s side, the Iona Gaels took home the top honor as the 2020-2021 MAAC Women’s Cross Country Champions for the fifth year in a row. Their average time was 22:08.91 and first, second and third place went to Gemma Nuttall (21:43.93), Kaitlyn Ohrtman (21:48.23) and Holly Smith (21:55.24). 

Coach Scrivines stated, “There were certainly mixed results- we met our goal on the women’s side, but not the men’s side. We have our work cut out for us the next seven or eight months to try and move up in our conference.” He continued with a plan moving forward, saying that he will “sit down with both teams in the coming weeks and start setting goals for the goal and monthly goals leading up to our MAAC Championship in late October.”

Although the journey to MAACs was a challenging one, all in all, Scrivines thought that his runners “did a nice job of competing” once they got to the MAAC Championship meet.

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