Cross country hosts Vermont Invitational

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On Sun. Sept. 9th, men and women’s cross-country team hosted Columbia University and St. Michael’s College in the Vermont Invitational.

Last season, the women’s team finished fourth overall in the America East Conference while the men came in sixth. (The cross-country captains named for the 2012-2013 season are senior’s Ethan McBrien and George Krikorian and junior Aaron Szotka for the men’s team. Seniors Julie McGilpin, Sarah Bryan and Kristen Weberg were named captains for the women’s team.)

            “This is an especially exciting year as we have both outstanding veteran leadership and a plethora of talented newcomers,” Vermont head coach Matt Belfield said in a Vermont Athletics Press Conference before the race.

“I’m confident that both the men and women will race hard and with a strong sense of team. How fast they will run and how high we’ll place come championship time will be determined by the little things,” Belfield said.

            The running commenced at 11 a.m. at the Catamount Family Center in Williston, Vt. with the men’s 8K race. Senior captain McBrien was the top UVM finisher in the race finishing 14th overall with a time of 26:13:6. Mcbrien. Szotka finished right behind McBrien in the 15th spot with a time of 26:38.5. Sophomore Dylan Souder came in at 16th with a time of 26:46.4.

            The men’s team had strong debuts from their rookies. First-year Fletcher Hazlehurt and Erik Buser took 17th and 18th place respectively in the race.

             “Our men are pretty young and the new guys fared well in their first 8K length effort,” said Belfield in a Vermont Athletics Press Conference following the race. “Ethan also looked really good up front, and Aaron and Dylan will round into form soon.”

            The top spot in the men’s 8K race went to Columbia’s Leighton Spencer with a time of 24:50.2. Columbia claimed the top 13 spots in the race. 

            In the women’s 5K, senior captain Weberg earned top marks, finishing the race with a time of 17:58.7, and placing third overall. First-year Alicia Clark earned the fifth spot for Vermont in her collegiate debut with a time of 18:10.6. Columbia’s Waverly Neer took the first spot in the race with a time of 17:41.7.

             “I was happy with it. It was a good first race; a good first effort,” said Weberg. “It’s a good confidence booster for next week.”

            The women’s team also had a strong showing from their rookies. First-year Nikki Braceras placed ninth with a time of 18:33.9 and was the third top-10 finisher for the women’s team.

            “It was a really strong start for both of our teams,” Belfield said. “Columbia presents a huge challenge for us, especially with its national ranking on the men’s side (27th), so it allowed us to get a good assessment of our runners ahead of the pre-conference meet next week.”

            The Catamounts will be competing again Friday Sept. 14 in Durham, N.H. for a pre-conference meet hosted by the University of New Hampshire. The meet begins at 1:30 p.m. at College Woods, the site of the 2012 America East Cross Country Championships.