Cross country team ready to hit the ground running at Towson Invitational

After+the+Towson+Invitational%2C+the+team+will+next+travel+to+Bethlehem+to+take+on+rival+Lehigh.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Athletic+Communications%29

After the Towson Invitational, the team will next travel to Bethlehem to take on rival Lehigh. (Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications)

Ryan Green

The Lafayette cross country team opens the fall season with a trip to the Towson Invitational in Maryland this afternoon, their only meet before competing with rival Lehigh in mid-September.

The team boasts a youthful roster with only three seniors between the men’s and women’s teams. Head coach Michele Curcio admitted that having such a young roster is “challenging at times” but said the goal for the team during preseason has been to integrate the first years into the group and bring them up to speed on the “expectations of the program.”

During meetings with sports psychologist Julie Amato, players on the teams set goals for the season after both the men’s and women’s teams finished eighth out of 10 teams at the Patriot League Championship last fall.

“I think personality-wise, this group is goal-oriented individuals on the running side,” Curcio said. “[They know] what they want to do in cross country and what they want to do on the track and they don’t let other things distract them as much.”

“Both teams have set pretty high goals for themselves in terms of where they want to place in the Patriot League,” she added.

The women’s team will look to sophomore Autumn Sands to lead the charge after she finished second in the Patriot League in the 5000-meter run in May.

“[Sands] had an outstanding end of the year as a freshman,” Curcio said. “Each meet [she] got better in cross country and each meet in track season [she] got better so we look for her to be our leader.”

Juniors Ainsley Jacobs and Gabrielle Galletta and senior Margaret Schiazza all return after being consistent point scorers last fall, while sophomore Cassandra Wilk and juniors Elizabeth Harmon and Liv Palma help round out the core of the women’s team.

Curcio noted that freshmen Rachel Hurley and Rebecca Hartman are also joining the team with strong credentials from high school.

On the men’s side, they are returning with a bit more experience. Junior Michael Neeson returns as the top runner from last year’s team, while sophomore Brian Clayton held down the second spot for the runners.

“[Neeson] tends to be a guy who’s pretty steady, and when big meets come he runs well,” Curcio said. “He doesn’t seem to get nervous. He doesn’t have that as a distraction for him.”

Juniors Thomas Anthony and Ryan Branch and sophomores Tim Larsen and Austin Barry fill out the core of the men’s team. They also have the addition of “talented” freshman Bobby Oehrlein, who Curcio thinks will make “an immediate impact.” The men’s team also welcomes back sophomore Jim Zignorski, who was injured for most of the last year.

Curcio said the men’s team has been focused on “running in a pack” a bit more, while the women’s team is trying to move more runners into the top-three group of Jacobs, Galletta, and Sands.

“It’s just a matter of running together and improving as a group,” Schiazza said. “I think that’s where the answer lies.”

Schiazza stated that the practices have been productive so far, with lots of team support and runners always training together. Curcio echoed those sentiments about the team’s practices and training so far.

“Both [assistant] coach [Michael] DuPaul and I were very impressed that the group as a whole is further along than last year’s group, just when they showed up,” she said. “And then when they started doing the workouts, they’re just further along. Hopefully, that leads to some good things at the end of the year.”

The men’s and women’s teams travel to Towson, Md. at 4 p.m. today.

Andrew Hollander ’21 contributed reporting.