Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams at Fairfield University have been gearing up for what will be an extremely interesting season. 

Runners and coaching staff alike understand that this season will be incredibly different, but the Stags never back down from a challenge.

With the rising number of COVID-19 cases around the nation, collegiate sports have been pushed back, canceled or heavily modified; since the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference canceled the fall cross country season, Fairfield’s runners have not had the chance to attend meets. 

Luckily, the runners, unlike many other Fairfield athletes, were able to participate for most of the 2019 season. This is because they primarily took part in meets during the fall. 

The men’s team landed in 34th place for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Northeast Regional Championship, held on Nov. 15, 2019. The women’s team placed 33rd to round out their season. 

Unfortunately, neither team was able to return in the spring to run in the Monmouth Season Opener or at the Rider Invite, as both were canceled after being slated to happen in late March and mid-April, respectively.

“This season was mainly just for training and getting ready for a possible spring track season,” runner Robert Dillon ‘23 said.

Additionally, some women’s cross country runners had some opinions about the current state of athletics. 

“This season was super different from other seasons because we weren’t able to train as a team,” Mia Melao ‘22 said. “The rules with the athletic center were constantly changing.”

Obviously, to limit widespread exposure of the virus, it was the right call by the MAAC to cancel or, at the very least, postpone the season. 

Nonetheless it is tough to predict what will happen next due to the sheer uncertainty and unpredictability of COVID-19.

In another attempt to combat the spread of COVID-19, the team has taken a different approach to practicing as compared to past years. 

The team now splits up, and must wear masks while running, which may hinder some runners’ endurance.

The teams split up into two groups, and run as smaller units, as opposed to large groups. Aside from this disadvantage in practicing, though, the competitive spirit was still somewhat alive, at least for some athletes.

The competitive spirit, though, may look a little more individualized than previous seasons. This happens to be the nature of the virus, and until further notice team activities must be conducted in a safe and responsible environment.

“The only real competition was to better yourself as a runner,” Los Angeles native Timothy Burschinger ‘23 said.

Among both the women’s and the men’s team, one common denominator shines through: a positive attitude. 

It is incredibly important for Fairfield’s athletes to remain positive and in good spirits, even if competition may not resume, because if and when it does, there is no time to waste.

In the meantime, however, the Stags have been partaking in some activities on their own time, just to make sure they are staying in shape and enjoying themselves during these daunting times. 

“Once I found out our season was canceled, I decided to sign up for my first marathon and spent quarantine training for it,” Courtney Kitchen ‘23 said. 

On the men’s team, some have elected to use the running break to focus on their academics. 

Especially at this time, it is important that all student-athletes focus on their schoolwork, since now there is ample time to balance being a student and being an athlete.

 “Because of less emphasis on cross country this season, it has given us all the opportunity to focus more on our academics and have the ability to do so,” Dillon added.

Next fall will be a large turning point for both cross country teams here at Fairfield. With the loss of this year’s season, both teams are looking forward to proving themselves and getting right back into work.

Although some seniors will be graduating and will not get to race again with their teammates, the future is incredibly bright. 

“We’re super excited to race again, so it’ll feel good to get back into competition next fall,” Melao stated.

The men’s team, additionally, is ready to get back out there. 

“Everyone on the team is ready to show and prove that we have improved as a team, especially with the loss of this year’s cross country season,” Dillion said. “We have big goals for the next season and we are ready to achieve those goals and represent Fairfield.”

Needless to say, the future of Fairfield cross country on both the men’s and women’s side is incredibly bright, and our Stags will surely come into next year ready to take over the MAAC and win some races.

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