With a new coaching staff, and four freshman runners, it is a year of new beginnings for the men’s cross country team. Coming off an average season last year, expectations are high for the upcoming season.

Head Coach John Sagnelli, who coached the University of New Haven for the past 12 years, is very excited with how the team is shaping up.

However, he said he wants to stress that with so much new blood, everyone is still getting used to each other.

“The most experienced one here is our assistant coach, Dan Ryan,” he said.

Ryan ’07 was not only the captain of last year’s team but also the top finisher for Fairfield in every race.

His experience on the courses and his knowledge of his former teammates could prove as a very valuable asset for Sagnelli and may speed up the transition from last year’s coaching style to this new one.

“Coach Sagnelli’s approach to training has been quality and not quantity. He has lowered the miles we run each week but heightened the rate in which they are done. The team seems to be responding well, with a few sore legs here and there, but it comes with the territory,” said co-captain A.J. Lawrence ’08. “Sagnelli is a great coach, the team overall enjoys his enthusiasm and his knowledge in the sport.”

Lawrence and fellow co-captain Duncan Gerity ’08 have their work cut out for them leading such a young team.

Asked about how the freshmen were fitting in and what impact he thought they would have, Lawrence’s response was very positive.

“The freshmen are fitting into the team quite nicely, they are just starting to take the necessary steps to take what they have learned in high school cross country and apply that to the big leagues of collegiate racing,” he said.

“I also see them playing an important role due to the number of guys we currently have, if they take the necessary steps I’m sure they will be excellent assets to the team,” he added.

On the other hand, the women’s team has more experience than the men’s team considering that there is only one female freshman runner.

“Knowing everyone from last year definitely started us off in a positive direction,” said sophomore Ashley Doran.

“We have two new girls,” said Doran. “One freshman [Annie Rooney] and one sophomore [Eileen Smith] who ran track club with us last spring. Knowing everyone who came back was definitely a plus, especially with getting to know a new coach.”

Adjusting to Sagnelli’s methods seems to have been difficult process, but not one the Stags couldn’t handle it.

“At the beginning I think we could all definitely feel the difference. But after a few weeks we’re all really getting into the groove of it,” said Doran.

“The hardest part is 6 a.m. practices three days a week, where we are pretty much over in the Athletic Center by 5:30 a.m. to be ready to run at 6 a.m. We’re doing a more difficult push up and abs routine too, so that was difficult to get used to too,” Doran added.

“Both teams are extremely hard working and both teams have great attitudes,” said Sagnelli.

The team started its season with the Fordham Invitational on Sept. 8. The men’s team placed 20th overall with freshman Ben Heslin finishing with a time of 31:16. The women’s team finished 22nd overall with sophomore Caroline Conant finishing with a time of 22:46.

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