Saturday marks the start of another cross-country season in Storrs as the UConn men’s and women’s teams prepare to travel to Amherst, Massachusetts to participate in the Minuteman Invitational. Each team comes with high expectations from their coaches as they look to improve upon last season’s performances.
The women’s side is led by head coach J.J. Clark, who has coached the women’s cross-country and track and field team for the past three seasons in Storrs. A mostly-successful stint by the Huskies under Clark was punctuated by to a top-15 finish in the NCAA Northeast Regional in 2016.
The women’s roster has little turnover and is led by a core of returning athletes, including juniors Courtney Akerley and Haley Hasty, who helped the team finish strong last season. In total, 16 women from the 2016 team will be returning to compete, with an added seven fresh faces, bringing the roster to a total of 23.
The men’s team is coached by Greg Roy who is going into his 32nd year running the program at UConn. The men are coming off a season that saw them finish fourth in the American Athletic Conference Championships, which was won for a third year in a row by Tulsa. However, despite their underwhelming performance in the conference finals last season, coach Roy seems to be confident about his club heading into the new season.
“We are probably guardedly optimistic about how this season can go…we could really challenge for the conference title [and] we could challenge to get out of the region to the NCAAs,” Roy said about the upcoming season.
Senior Mike O’Donnell was named team captain for third consecutive time. O’Donnell has had a decorated career at UConn, including being selected for the All-American Athletic Conference team on two separate occasions. O’Donnell brings with him 13 returning athletes from 2016, while 10 freshmen will participate this season.
An anticipated addition among those 10 freshmen is Eric Van der els, who was redshirted last year. Over the summer, Van der els traveled to Peru where he won the 1,500-meter in the Pan American Junior Championships with a meet record time of 3.43.16. Participating in Peru, however, kept him from training appropriately with the team, so he will be sitting out at least the first two meets, according to coach Roy.
The UConn men and the women will be participating in the Minuteman Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 9 in Amherst, Massachusetts. Festivities begin around noon.
Kenny Beardsley is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.