Men and women rounding into shape as Little East meet approaches
By Matt Sinkewicz / Sports Information Staff
Eastern Connecticut State University's men and women's cross-country teams ran at the Western New England University Invitational Saturday. Both teams ran extremely well, the women placing sixth in a field of 22 and the men ninth out of 18 teams.
The five scoring runners for the women were junior Kelly Labanara (Chaplin) - who has led the team at the finish in each race this season and placed in the top five percent Saturday -- freshmen Mariah McPhee (Bristol), Sofia Amaral (New Milford), and Julie Trifone (Cheshire), and junior Alexandra Maciolek (Ellington).
The top five runners for the men were first-year sophomore transfer Taylor Flynn (Old Saybrook) - the team's pace-setter once again -- freshman Joe Rainville (Montville), senior Evan Glaude (East Hampton), freshman Chris Burkle (Guilford), and first-year cross country runner Michael Dolde (East Hampton), a second-year junior transfer.
Second-year head coach Kathy Manizza believes that the team is hitting its peak at the perfect time. 'I think they're all peaking just in time for (Little East Conference Championships Nov. 2). I'm excited. I think we'll have a good day (at the LEC Championships)."
Injuries have plagued both the men's and the women's team all season. Two of the top five women, senior fourth-year participants Katie France (Portland) and Alexa Palasky (Griswold) -- were both out on Saturday. France has not competed this season, while Palasky was sideline for the second consecutive meet.
While injuries have been an obstacle, this year's schedule has been favorable. The team has had a week off between meets for the past month, and it will be another two weeks before the conference championship meet. Manizza, a long distance runner herself, planned the schedule in order to rest the team members for the most important races of the season. She believes that the weeks between races allow the team ample time to rest, but still allows the runners to train hard enough to prepare for the next race.
"Hopefully this gives everyone a chance to recover," Manizza stated, "If everyone is healthy for the conference championship, it will be the first time this season that the entire women's team runs."
McPhee, a four-year cross country and indoor and outdoor track & field letterwinner Bristol Eastern, is one individual in particular who has shown steady improvement throughout the entire season. McPhee wasn't able to train as frequently as she would have liked over the summer because of her busy work schedule. However, since the semester began, she has rounded into top shape. She started the season as the fifth runner, but has worked her way up all the way to No. 2 behind Labanara, whom she pushing for the No. spot. On Saturday, Labanara was tenth overall in a field of 190 in a time of 20:10 over the 5,000 meter course, with McPhee right behind in 16th place overall in a time of 20:27. Amaral checked in in 27th place overall, Trifone 44th and Maciolek 79th.
"I thought the whole team worked very hard (Saturday)," McPhee stated. "We all ran really well."
Flynn and Rainville ran a strong 1-2 over the 8,000 meter course, Flynn placing 32nd overall in a time of 28:21, while Rainville was 25 seconds and seven spots back. Glaude was 58th overall, Burkle 73rd and Dolde 86th.