Leo Hainline ’22
The Providence College Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams are off to a flying start, both winning the Friar Invitational that took place just outside state lines in Attleboro, MA at Mark Coogan Course. The Friar women dominated their race, scoring 18 points compared to competitors University of New Hampshire’s 54 points and Stony Brook University’s 67 points.
The women’s success this past weekend was no surprise given that preseason polls ranked the Friars 26th in the nation and second in the Northeast region. Their roster is very international, with four women hailing from Ireland, two from New Zealand, one each from England and Canada, and the seven others being local products from the Northeast.
In addition to having a global team-makeup, the Friars are full of key members who have multiple years of eligibility remaining. Apart from Maria Coffin ’21GS, who was the only Friar to qualify for last year’s Women’s Cross Country NCAA Tournament, the team is primarily led by juniors and a few underclassmen, which was highlighted in the Friars’ performance on Sept. 10. PC’s Laura Mooney ’24 (Cappincur, Ireland), Lilly Tuck ’23 (Sunderland, Canada), and Orla O’Connor ’23 (Waterford, Ireland) took first, second, and third in the Friar’s Invitational. Maria Coffin (Annapolis, MD) was not close behind, finishing fifth. Other Friars Alex O’Neill ’23 (Ennis, Ireland), Kimberley May ’25 (Auckland, New Zealand), and Holly Brennan ’25 (Bettystown, Ireland) also finished in the top 10.
Coffin will look to lead this current squad as she is the only Friar to have qualified for the NCAA tournament in cross country this past year. Her qualification followed her fourth-place finish in the 2020/21 Big East Tournament race, which was the best out of any Friar. At the NCAA tournament, she was able to finish 99th out of 253 runners.
One of the main goals of the current squad is to make the NCAA tournament in Florida this November. Mooney, who topped the field in Attleboro two weeks ago, conveyed that “one of the key things for the team to achieve their goal is to work together.” As a sophomore, she is particularly excited about the season as she has yet to experience one under normal conditions given that COVID-19 prevented the team from having a normal season during her first year in Friartown.
The men’s cross country team was similarly successful in Attleboro, scoring 29 points to defeat Stony Brook (34 points), Boston College (77 points), and New Hampshire (102 points). The Friars, who are ranked fifth in the Northeast region, looked sharp with four runners listed in the top 10. Marcelo Rocha ’21GS, the Friars’ star runner from last season who had a fantastic spring track season as well, finished first in the men’s side of the Friar Invitational. He dominated the entire race and finished over 30 seconds faster than second place, earning him Big East Athlete of the Week. PC also had three other runners finishing in the top 10, with newcomer David McGlynn ’GS taking third, Liam Back ’24 finishing sixth, and Ryan Gallagher ’21GS finishing eighth.
The Friars return many of their key members from last year’s roster, with their top seven runners from last year’s Big East Tournament all returning. In addition, many of these runners on coach Ray Tracey’s squad are seasoned veterans. Rocha, who finished eighth in the tournament, Gallagher, who finished 21st, and David Rosas ’21GS, who finished 32nd, were all seniors that season who returned to Friartown as graduate students. Matthew Lepine ’22 is now a senior, as is Sean Meehan ’22. The two finished 47th and 51st respectively. Shane Coffey ’24 and Back were the two young guns on the roster who made valuable contributions. The foreigners, with Coffey from Ireland and Back from New Zealand, had a nice introduction to the states last year in regards to their performances and aim to grow into a bigger role their sophomore year.
This Friday, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams will face tougher opposition in the Battle of Beantown, hosted by Boston College. The top five teams in the Northeast on the women’s side will all be in attendance, including the Friars, University of Connecticut, Boston College, Syracuse University, and Harvard University, as well as over 20 other schools. As for the men, every top-five team in the Northeast is competing except for the top-ranked Iona College. In both competitions, the Friars will be the sole BIG EAST representative. This will be a prime opportunity to send a message from afar that PC is a force to be reckoned with on both the men’s and women’s sides. Last year, the men finished fifth in the Big East Tournament, while the women finished third. All signs suggest that both have notably improved since the previous season and should not be overlooked as title contenders.