After a 12-day layoff and two months of competition and preparation, the UConn men and women’s cross country teams are headed to Temple University to compete in the American Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday, Oct. 28.
In what has been a season of mostly highs for the women and a mixture of highs and lows for the men, all will be forgotten Saturday, as the team with the best performance will be crowned the American champions.
Last year at the AAC Championship, Tulsa put forth a dominating display to win the men’s division. Tulsa had a score of 22 which blew away the competition as second-place Tulane had a total score of 101. The UConn men placed fourth behind Cincinnati, which scored 109, with a score of 114.
The Huskies had a team average pace of 25:36 which was 1:20 second slower than first-place Tulsa. The Huskies were led by Mike O’Donnell, now a senior captain, who placed 6th among all runners.
On the women’s side last season, the outcome was quite similar to the men. The race was won by SMU by a two-point margin over Tulsa, 45-47. The Huskies also placed in fourth with a score of 145, behind Memphis. Ericka Randazzo led the Huskies that day, coming in 25th place with a time of 21:54.6.
The Huskies have some returning runners who have been in the AAC Championships before, but both sides were led through the regular season by an influx of young talent. Anything is possible for both sides as they head into Saturday.
The men’s side has had an up and down season in 2017. They started the season hot, winning the Minuteman Invitational, before coming in eighth out of 40 teams in the Paul Short Run.
However, on Oct. 13, the Huskies had a rough day. In a loaded Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational the Huskies came in 34th of 35 teams. The Huskies also competed in the Rothenberg Run where they came in third out of five teams; the best runners were off participating in the Nuttycombe Invitational, but the Huskies had hopes of coming away in first on that afternoon. This choppy regular season promises an unpredictable weekend.
The UConn women enjoyed a much more consistent trend of success. The Huskies dominated the Minuteman Invitational and the UB Stampeded Invitational, walking away in first-place in both events. Then, they competed in the Coast-to-Coast Battle In Beantown, which was an unscored event that saw the Huskies run competitively.
The Paul Short Run followed, where the Huskies placed in 16th out of 42 teams to finish in the upper 50 percent of the race, followed by the New England Championships where UConn came in 16th out of 28 teams with most of the regular runners off that afternoon.
Finally, the Huskies would close out the season on a good note as 12 days ago they placed first in the Rothenburg Run.
O’Donnell will lead the men’s side into Temple on Saturday just as he did a year ago. Highly-touted redshirt freshman Eric Van Der Els is expected to make his American Athletic Championship debut this weekend.
The women will be led by the freshmen pair of Alexandra Alsup and Mia Nahom who have helped them dominate the regular season.
The American Athletic Conference Championships are set to begin at 10:00 a.m. with the men’s 8k race, followed by the women’s 8k race at 10:50 a.m. The events will be hosted by Temple at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Kenny Beardsley is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.