By Meaghan Cahill ’20
The time has come for the Providence College Men’s Cross Country Team to show that they are just as strong of a team as their female counterparts have been the last couple of years.
“They’re going to have a very good year this year I think,” Providence College Women’s Cross Country Team member Abbey Wheeler ’20 said. “They were kind of in the position we are in now last year. The group of junior boys now remind me of the group of freshmen girls now.”
The boys that Wheeler is talking about includes Marcelo Rocha ’21, who finished first in the team’s first dual meet of the season against the University of New Hampshire. The men’s team placed first, while the women placed third. Rocha, who was the 2016 Massachusetts Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year, finished 35th at last year’s Big East Championship.
The men’s team had runners place in the top 10 out of 11 spots, with a mess of sophomores and juniors taking third through eleventh place.
“They have a lot of depth,” commented Wheeler, who also placed first at the UNH Dual Meet. “I’m excited to see how far we can take it this year.”
While the men are already showing their promise for a great season, especially after coming off of a few building years, the women are entering a year of regrowth.
Having graduated eight seniors and graduate students over the past two years and losing top talent like Millie Paladino ’18 and Catarina Rocha ’18, both of whom have had outstanding seasons with PC, is placing the team in what Wheeler refers to as a rebuilding year.
“The team is a bit different from past years where we have had upperclassmen return with all-star records behind them. This year, the majority of the team will be either freshmen or people that are relatively new to running,” Wheeler said. The women’s team has been collecting a number of championship titles, both individually and collectively over the course of Wheeler’s time in the program.
Admitting that the team’s 2016 Big East Championship win will be a hard memory to beat in her career as a Friar, Wheeler adds that on the upcoming season is, “kind of a building year, which is really exciting.”
One runner who is new to both PC and running is Orla O’Connor ’23, a native from Waterford, Ireland who set the Irish under-20 record in the 10,000 meter race walk at the European under-20 Championships.
O’Connor is one of the six freshmen on the women’s 14-member roster this year. She is joined by Ireland native Alexandra O’Neill ’23 and Wellington, New Zealand native Tessa Hunt ’23, all who have chosen the College based on both teams’ head coach, Ray Treacy.
“He’s the reason why I came here…and that’s why a lot of the other girls come here—to be coached by him,” Wheeler said.
A coach at PC for over 30 years, Treacy’s goal for the team is to improve as much as they can individually and as a team, and to finish better than when they started.
Of course, as Wheeler points out, the season will not be easy for their rebuilding team, and with the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown coming up on Sept. 20, the team will get their first real chance to see where everyone’s legs are.
“[Beantown] is the second biggest meet we’re going to face before championship season,” Wheeler said. Second to the Wisconsin Invitational, the Battle in Beantown will feature men’s and women’s teams from all over the country.
Wheeler, who won the event last year and is just hoping to have “another good run” this year, said that the team has “put in a lot of good training.”
Individually, Wheeler is just hoping to make it back to Nationals after coming up short last season. As a team, she wants to see just how far they can make it.
“We’re just really hoping to finish the season healthy and with some good showing,” said Wheeler.