Cross Country Team Takes On NCAA Championship

by The Cowl Editor on December 9, 2021

Friar Sports

By Liam Tormey ’22

Sports Co-Editor

The Providence College Men’s and Women’s Cross Country team have completed their season, finishing off at the NCAA Championship in Tallahassee, FL on Saturday, Nov. 20. 

It was a journey to get to this spot, and it took a whole team effort. A first look begins at the Big East Championships which took place in Carmel, IN. The Friar men finished fourth at the Championship with 85 points and the Friar women placed fifth with 82 points.

For the men, Marcelo Rocha ’22GS, from Peabody, MA, was first for the Friar men in the 10K, finishing fourth overall with a time of 24:22.7, beating his time and place from last year at the Big East Championship which was 23:33.4 and an eighth-place spot. Liam Back ’24 also made the top 10, finishing eighth with a time of 24:32.2.

Marcelo Rocha ‘22GS was the only male for the Friars to compete at the NCAA Championship. He finished 61st.
Photo Courtesy of PC Athletics

On the flip side, Maria Coffin ’22GS led the Friar women in the 6K, finishing in an eighth-place spot in a time of 21:08.1, but Laura Mooney ’24 was as close as you can get behind her, placing ninth with a time of 21:08.6.

Coffin, a fifth-year athlete for PC, said she came back with one overarching goal: “to help my team make nationals.”

The Friars have been blessed with head coach Ray Treacy at the helm. He is one of the most successful coaches in the nation who has coached 65 All-Americans, seven NCAA individual champions, who have captured 15 NCAA titles overall, 45 Big East individual champions, who have captured 117 Big East titles, and 11 Olympians. His results speak for themselves.

Not only do those individual champions speak volumes, but his women’s teams have won two NCAA Cross Country Championships.

For Coffin, she noted it was “disappointing” not to qualify for the NCAAs since her freshman year in 2017. She qualified for the NCAAs as an individual in 2020, but unfortunately her team just missed out. 

This year felt different, Coffin mentioned. “After our showing at the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational, a national caliber meet, I knew we could do something special. We came back stronger this year and I knew we had the potential to qualify.”

The Friars would finish eighth at the meet, placing higher than many of the nationally ranked teams. Their top three runners had a very tight spread placing 22nd, 24th, and 27th which was a very big achievement for a race of that magnitude with so many great runners.

“To see that our team, a younger team with less depth, could perform at such a high level against these bigger, older teams, helped our confidence going into the championship,” Coffin explained.

Maria Coffin ‘22GS was ecstatic to have the younger runners on the team experience the NCAA Championship.
Photo Courtesy of PC Athletics

This would be the Friar women’s 29th appearance overall at the NCAA Championship, but it marked their first since the 2017 season.

Maria Coffin said this appearance “is huge for the team going forward. The team is young and will only get better. Now that they have this experience, they know how to handle these types of races and make it back to NCAAs in the future.”

The women finished 26th overall at Apalachee Regional Park, and Mooney placed 60th overall in the 6K course in a time of 20:13.1 and scored in the 49th spot. Coffin finished 89th in the same event with a time of 20:26.1, scoring in the 71st spot.

Head coach Ray Treacy said, “I am very happy with the way Laura and Maria ran,” but he also added to what Coffin said on how helpful going to the championship was to other members of the squad: “For the younger members of the team, it was a great experience for them that they will learn from and bring to the Championship next year.”

Looking at where the Friar women ranked among Big East competitors, they were second, ahead of Villanova University and Butler University, but fell short of Georgetown University.

Along with Mooney and Coffin, Shannon Flockhart ’24 (128th and 20:51.6), Lilly Tuck ’23 (167 and 21:12.9), and Kimberly May ’25 (179 and 21:20.5) all raced for the Friars. It was a great experience for all to say the least.

On the men’s side, Rocha was the only one to run. He raced in the men’s 10K event and finished 61st in a time of 29:45.8.

Treacy commented, “It was a very good run for Marcelo today in the conditions. Marcelo held his position throughout the race. He will be looking to come back here next year and earn All-American honors.”

Now that the cross country season has ended, it does not mean time off for both the men and women. They will be transitioning now into the indoor track season, and every runner will take on their own specialty events, unlike the 6K and 10K in cross country. 

Coffin says some of the younger girls on the team are “switching gears to focus on the shorter distance events like the 1K and the mile,” while others, including herself, “are going to focus on the distance events such as the 3K and 5K.”

After finishing the cross country season on such a strong note for the first time in several years, Coffin hopes to “carry the momentum from the cross season into the indoor season and then outdoor track to hopefully perform well in the Big East and have some national qualifiers.” 

As Coffin mentioned before, she understands the high standards that Treacy sets for the program, and she says, “While making it was a huge step forward, we keep ourselves humble with the reminder that the Friars have taken home podium medals and National Championships in prior years, and that is something to strive for and completely within our reach.” 

The search for those championships will begin with the indoor track campaign beginning in January and culminates with the championships in March. The Friars are hoping to make it to the NCAAs just like they did for the cross country season.