The UConn men’s and women’s cross country teams are both heading to Lehigh University on Friday, Sept. 29 to compete in the Paul Short Run.
The UConn men’s and women’s programs have had vastly different schedules in September. The women are heading into their fourth meet on Friday, while the men will be running in their second competition all season.
Both teams head into the race fresh, as the men’s team hasn’t competed in over 20 days, while the women’s team rested many of their regular runners in the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown last weekend. However, both sides have one thing in common: They are both three races away from the American Athletic Conference championships at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The UConn men had their most recent race on September 9 when they competed in the Minuteman Invitational in Amherst, Massachusetts. Even without two of their best runners, the Huskies came away with a dominant first-place team finish in the event.
The Minuteman Invitational was an important step for the Huskies this season, but the Paul Short Run is an even bigger benchmark to show where the Huskies are with just a month until conference championships.
"We will know where we are as a team after this race," UConn head coach Greg Roy said, per UConn Athletics. "The style of this race is that of an NCAA qualifier with a lot of teams and runners. You have to know how to run your race and style in an event like this. You have to stay focused and not go with the tide because you can fall behind. However, if you are a person who can climb the ladder in the middle of a race, you can really do well here."
The Paul Short Run will also be the platform for two Huskies to make their 2017 debuts, one new face and one old face. The old face is senior captain Mike O’Donnell who just last year came in sixth in the American Athletic Championships and seventh in the New Englands.
“Mike O’Donnell has been a steady all-conference competitor for us two years in a row,” Roy said. “He knows how to compete.”
This will also be the first race of the season for redshirt freshman Eric van der Els. Van der Els had an unbelievable summer with a win at the 1,500 meter race at the Pan American Junior Championships race in Lima, Peru with a meet record time of 3:43.16.
“Eric [is] obviously one of the most talented kids we have ever recruited… [H]e could be our top guy [or] he could be a scorer,” coach Roy said on van der Els’ debut cross country race for the Huskies.
For the women’s team, this will be the final race in a busy September that saw them place first in both the Minuteman Invitational and the UB Stampede Invitational, and compete in an unscored race in the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown last Friday. The women’s team will look to capitalize on their early-season success to capture another first-place team finish behind freshman Mia Nahom and teammates.
Forty-three other teams will compete in the gold race alongside the women. Within those 43 teams, four nationally-ranked programs, including No. 15 Villanova, No. 21 Utah State, No. 23 Georgetown and No. 24 Mississippi State.
The Paul Short Run will take place Friday, September 29 at Lehigh University. The women’s race will begin at 9:30 a.m., followed by the men’s race at 11 a.m.
Kenny Beardsley is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.