By Jack Belanger ’21
After coming off arguably their best performance of the year, the Providence College Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Teams are coming into form just in time for the Big East Championships on Saturday, October 27 in Carmel, Indiana hosted by Butler University. Both teams came in first place at their last race, the Central Connecticut State University Mini Meet.
The women’s team had five runners place in the top 10 including Abbey Wheeler ’20, who placed second overall in the race and first among collegiate runners. Wheeler’s performance caused her to be named the NCAA Cross Country Division l National Athlete of the Week for the second time this year. Wheeler has been one of the most consistent runners for the Friars, finishing as the top collegiate runner at three meets this year. Regan Rome, a fifth year, and Maria Coffin ’21 finished right behind Wheeler in third and fourth places overall respectively.
The men’s team also had runners place second through fourth as they had four runners place in the top 10 of the race. Ryan Gallagher ’21 took the top spot for the Friars, finishing second overall with Angus White ’21 and Marcus Karamanolis ’19 right behind him. Gallagher has come a long way from the beginning of the season, when he finished fifth on the team at the University of New Hampshire Dual Meet, and has worked his way up to being one of the team’s top runners.
Coming into the season, Head Coach Ray Treacy had high expectations for the teams, specifically for the girls. “The expectations for the women’s team was to make it back to nationals,” said Treacy. “We made it 28 out of the last 29 years. Things seemed to be coming together very well last weekend so I’m much more optimistic about that goal going into the Big East.”
With Wheeler leading the way, the women’s team looks to be one of the favorites at the Big East Championship. The Friars expect to finish in the top two, hoping to compete for first place along with Villanova University, who has been one of the top teams in the country. While it has been the strong races from the top runners like Wheeler and Coffin that has carried the team throughout the year, for the Friars to go back to Nationals they will need Alex Decicco ’20 to continue her improvement from the start of the season. Her strong performance at Central Connecticut State University has given Treacy plenty of optimism.
“Alex Decicco made a huge improvement last weekend […]so if she can run like that for the last two meets for the Big East and Regional Meet, we will have a really good chance to make it back to regionals.”
After winning the Northeast Regional Meet and finishing 16th at Nationals last season, having everyone running at their best has given the Friars not only a great opportunity to achieve the same results as last year, but potentially finish even better this year.
While Wheeler, Coffin, and Rome have been the clear leaders on the women’s team, the men’s team has lacked a true number one but has found success due to having strong depth. “The men’s team has been very balanced this year,” says Treacy. “We haven’t had the same number one from one week to the next. Everyone is improving, we really have a solid 10 guys on the line this weekend.”
It was hard to gauge how the men’s team would perform this year because the majority of the team is comprised of freshmen and sophomore runners. Three weeks after finishing first at the University of New Hampshire Dual Meet, the team was hit by an illness that caused them to finish 33rd at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational.
The team eventually recovered and came back to finish first at Central Connecticut. For the team to have success in the next two races, Treacy says the team should accomplish their goals if they stay consistent. The team’s training in the past three weeks has impressed the coach and gives him more hope for the team to vie for a top-three finish.
The men’s race has a much more crowded field for the Big East race, icluding Georgetown University, Villanova, and the host Butler University, who returns a strong team from last year. “We want to finish in the top three if we can. We want to beat one of those teams and we would be quite happy going into regionals if we can achieve those goals”
There is plenty of motivation for the men to have a good race on Saturday, October 27. Last season the men finished fourth in the Big East and 12th at regionals. With about two weeks until the Northeast Regionals, the men have plenty of time to train and continue to build off of their last race.