Cross Country Begins with Annual MU Kick-Off

The men’s and women’s cross country teams started off their season with a bang, both winning their first meet, the Monmouth XC Kick-Off on Saturday, Aug. 30. This annual competition is hosted by Monmouth as the first meet of the season. Held at Thompson Park in Lincroft, NJ, the meet allowed schools to gauge their performances for the future, while incorporating some friendly competition in the process.

Both the men’s and women’s teams showed their strengths as they defeated their competitors by large margins. The men’s squad finished with a team score of 17 points, far ahead of competitors Lafayette at 65 points, Seton Hall at 75 points, Wagner at 100 points, and St. Francis (N.Y) at 135 points.

Senior runner Alex Leight and juniors Domenick D’Agostino and Kevin French were the first three to finish in a field of 76 runners. Their times for the hilly Thompson Park course were 19:09.7, 19:11.4, and 19:16.4 respectively.

Sophomore Kevin Summonte and freshman Ben Dillon rounded out MU’s top five finishing in 19:23.2 and 19:29.7. Thomas Day of Lafayette was the lone runner to separate MU’s top five. Head coach Joe Compagni explained the importance of this early meet as he said, “We don’t focus too much on preparing for the MUXC Kick-Off itself, but it is an early season barometer for us. After a summer of training and a week of heavy volume during our pre-season camp, a low-key meet lets us see where we stand as a team.”

The women’s team performed exceptionally as well. Compiling a score of 26 points, the women’s squad was trailed by Seton Hall who had 52 points, Lafayette with 75 points, Wagner at 81 points, and St. Francis (N.Y.) with 150 points. Freshman Danielle Leavitt was the first Hawk to cross the finish line for the women, completing the course in 14:59.8.

Sophomore Jenna Cupp was right behind Leavitt with a time of 15:02.1. The two placed third and fourth respectively in a field of 81 runners.

Rounding out the women’s top five were freshman Allie Wilson with 15:17.6, junior Sydney Engelberger with 15:21.2, and sophomore Lennon Cooper with 15:25.4.

With their victories, the cross country team set a standard for the rest of their fall season.

“A lot of what we do during pre-season as well as with the MUXC Kick-Off is designed to help the freshmen make the transition to college training and racing. Several of them showed that they followed our advice and did some great training this summer, and that gives them an opportunity to make an immediate impact in a new environment,” Compagni said.

The cross country teams once again proved that their diligent summer training paid off at the Fordham Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park, NY. The women placed fourth of eight teams while freshman Allie Wilson provided the team with a fifth place overall finish with a time of 19:52.96. The next Hawk to cross the line was Cupp whose 20:02.39 time gave her a tenth place overall finish. Freshman Maggie Hanlon placed 17th overall at 20:20.81.

The men, who only had part of their team compete, were led by junior Zach Iannarelli. The junior finished with a time of 28:32.18 for a 27th place finish. Freshman Jake Howell was the next Hawk to cross the line at 29:14 earning him 35th place.

As the teams enter their second year in the MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), the importance of depth has grown.

“The MAAC has a great deal of depth in cross country, with a nationally ranked program leading the way and many excellent programs reaching for that level as well,” said Compagni. “We learned last year that we need to be very strong and very tough to excel in the conference, and we always want to go beyond that and reach a higher level at NCAA Regionals and ECAC/IC4As as well.”

That being said, the Hawks will next compete on Saturday, September 20 on their home turf at Thompson Park in Lincroft, NJ.

PHOTO COURTESY of Lifetouch Photography