Freshman enthusiasm combined with senior experience erupted this weekend during the Fairfield men’s and women’s cross country team’s participation in the NCAA northeast regional championships.

At the end of the day they came away with the women in 33rd place overall and the men in 34th at Van Cortlandt Park of Westport on Saturday Nov. 11.

The NCAA contest was the penultimum stop on the Stags’ season schedule.

The team was feeling reasonably confident coming into the race after taking eighth place on the women’s side and ninth place on the men’s last week at the MAAC championship.

“You’re always nervous going into a race,” said Chris Rhodes ’10, “but we’ve had a good year of training.”

Brian Gallagher ’10 agreed saying, “We knew it was going to be a lot of tough competition,” but also said that everyone tries to beat personal records and get stronger compared to the other runners in the conference and beyond.

Courtney Kincaid ’07 also mentioned the feeling of enthusiasm that filled the Stags going in. “We were all really excited, it’s such a big event,” she said.

For the women, Kaitlyn Hurley ’10 took first on the team with a time of 24:29.6. She was followed by Courtney Kincaid ’07 with 25:21:7 and Devann Ard ’09 with 26:19:5. Other runners included Mary Morris ’10, Caroline Conant ’10 and Ashley Doran ’10.

Dan Ryan ’07, a team captain, brought home a respectable time of 37:19:2, first among the Stags. Times of 38:02:0 and 38:32:4, respectively, went to Duncan Gerity ’08 and Kevin Manke ’10. They were followed by John Worrall ’07, John Fields ’07, Chris Rhodes ’10 and John LaCagnina ’07.

A key factor in the men’s team’s performance may have been the fact that it was a 10 kilometer race instead of the more usual eight kilometer. Some runners were not as experienced in this kind of longer event, particularly the freshmen.

On the other hand, the women were at a slight advantage this Saturday as they were running the same six kilometer race that they ran last weekend at the MAAC.

Rhodes commented of the whole NCAA experience. “Especially coming in a as a freshman it was almost overwhelming, but once I got out there it was better.”

Overall, the team performed as well as it expected, given the strong competitors in the division like Boston College and Iona who took the top spot in the championship.

Fairfield’s cross country program is relatively new in comparison with other Division 1 teams like Boston College and Iona. It also receives much less funding and scholarship money than others, and runners are not generally recruited to the team.

This year’s women’s team features nine new freshmen, and the men’s side includes six.

More money is being put into the program every year, both in funding and scholarships.

A good number of this year’s freshmen were recruited, and Kincaid estimated that within two years all new team members would be.

“We usually have one or two new freshmen,” said Kincaid. “We’ve never had this many before.” She went on to say, “One freshman is at the top of the pack, and most are in the front or in the middle. We have a lot of hope for the future,” she said.

It is definitely a rebuilding year for both sides of the program, but with the help of Head Coach Michael Owens the Fairfield cross country team will finish out the season at the ECAC/IC4A Championship next weekend in the Bronx.

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