The University of Connecticut’s cross country team will make their way down to the Bronx to compete at the Iona Meet of Champions Friday. This will be the first time since 2016 that the Huskies will run at Van Cortlandt Park, which is also home of the NCAA Northeast Regional meet this fall.
“Iona always puts on a great meet,” noted first year Head Coach and new Director of cross country/track and field Beth Alford-Sullivan. “We are running a small squad Friday, but this will be a good experience to get familiar with the course when we come back here in November.”
The Huskies are coming off a solid performance last week, finishing second out of seven teams at the Providence Friar Invitational in Massachusetts. Seven out of the 11 finishers last week were underclassmen, and Sullivan plans to toe six underclassmen on the line Friday.
“We want to get out as a pack and stay competitive throughout the race,” said Sullivan. “Gaining experience will benefit our underclassmen later on in the season when we run at more competitive meets.”
This year, the Huskies are led by two graduate students in Randi Burr (Westerly, RI) and Celia Chacko (Newington, CT). Burr finished eighth last week and Chacko is set to make her season debut on Friday. They have been remarkable team leaders so far according to Sullivan.
“Randi and Celia have done a great job of leading the team,” said Sullivan. “The team unity is very strong and they have displayed great leadership towards the girls.”
The Huskies have big goals going forward and one of those is to qualify for the national meet, which is slated to take place on Nov.19 in Oklahoma.
“Our goals are definitely very ambitious,” commented Sullivan. “The big goal is to make it to the national championship meet, but we also want to win the Big East Championship. Georgetown, Providence and Villanova are the top programs in the conference, but we want to be right there with them.”
The gun for Friday’s 5K race is expected to go off at 10:45 a.m. The meet will also highlight Columbia, who is ranked ninth in the Northeast Region, and Rutgers, who is ranked 10th in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Huskies are ranked fourth in the Northeast and are looking to improve upon that mark with a good showing on Friday.