By: Julian Santiago
In many sports, running is used as punishment and is overwhelmingly disliked by most athletes. The Springfield College campus is filled with hundreds of athletes such as freshman basketball standout Joe Bongiorni who agrees that “running sucks.” But for 29 strong-willed men and women, running is their sport of choice. The Springfield College men’s and women’s cross country teams are two unique groups filled with outstanding leaders, as both teams are coming off of quality seasons and are looking only to get better.
With a season as grueling as the cross country one, strong leadership and a sense of camaraderie within the team is essential for success. It is clear that the Springfield men’s cross country team has both. Senior Corey Hamel and junior Joe Geurds are the captains of this year’s team, but according to coach Bryan Brown, there were six men that received votes to be captain.
The team’s strong leadership is headed by the reigning NEWMAC Coach of the Year, Brown, who is an esteemed alumnus of Springfield College. Brown, who initially came to play football as a quarterback, eventually became a standout runner in his time here. Brown earned All-American honors as a track athlete in 1996, as he finished fifth nationally in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
The young team, which lost seven quality senior runners from last year’s second-place finishing team in the conference, needs Brown’s experience in order to achieve the goals that they have set for themselves. According to Brown, the team understands that “each year is a new year” and that the most important goal is for “everyone to improve as individuals each year.”
The team already has one meet under their belts, a fifth-place finish out of 10 at the Smith College Invitational. Geurds was the team’s top finisher at 17:54.30 in the 5K course. As the team now moves forward into the meat of the season, a strong effort will be needed from all runners in order to “steal third in the conference,” which is the hope of the team.
The 2013 women’s team is similar to the men’s team, as it is a young team with many new faces. The team of 25 has 14 first-year runners, including 10 freshmen. Luckily, according to coach Jim Pennington, the “team leadership is the best I have had in several years” with upper classmen Elizabeth Tomanio and Elizabeth Footit “setting the expectations for the team and being leaders at practice and at competitions.”
The team’s top runner, Gabby Gaudreault, is perhaps one of the most unique Springfield athletes. She is currently working a semester-long strength and conditioning internship in New Jersey, but still manages to compete for the Springfield team as the top runner. This past Saturday, Gaudreault met up with the team in Woodland Park New Jersey and finished 10th out of 200 runners at the Ramapo Invitational.
Gaudreault, along with Abby Wright, Jaimie Giaccone and others, led the team to a seventh-place finish out of the 17 competing teams. Later this year, Gaudreault will run individually representing Springfield at the Princeton Invitational and the Lehigh Invite. Pennington believes that Gaudreault has an “excellent chance” to make cross country nationals in late November as well as help lead the Pride women to a top-four finish in the conference by the end of the year.
Her dedication to her team truly personifies the ideal Springfield College student-athlete. Pennington, now in his 29th year as coach of the women’s team, feels that this year’s team has actually improved from last year’s not only with talent but also by becoming a more tightly knit unit. The future is nothing but bright for the team as the “dedicated hard-working group” of freshmen led by Sarah Skillin is adapting nicely and is already contributing strongly.
Cross country may fall behind some of the larger sports on campus in terms of notoriety, but these athletes are some of the finest on campus. Both the women’s and men’s teams rank well in terms of team GPA on campus, and the leaders from both squads are some of the more exemplary from any sport here at Springfield.
Expectations are high for both teams for the remainder of the season, but the men’s and women’s teams are ready to keep on running their way to the top.