By Luke Whitehouse
Both the men’s and the women’s cross country teams are coming off strong 2021 finishes and hope that success continues into this season. The men’s team finished 4th in the NEWMAC conference, while the women finished 7th. Many runners compete year-round, and feel confident that the hard days of training will pay off once again.
“I feel like [there were] a lot of really good summers that just gave us confidence to jump right into preseason training and now into the season,” junior runner Kate Bonanno said.
This hard work has not gone unnoticed.
“Bouncing off of our track season [in the spring], we had a lot of people make huge improvements,” head coach Anna Steinman said. “It’s been really exciting.”
Each team is expected to improve upon last year’s results, although that may be in different ways.
For the women, it’s a healthy mix of veteran runners and fresh faces. Senior Brenna Lachapelle and junior Kate Bonanno look to use their experience to their advantage while a new group led by sophomore transfer Maddie Shea, and first-year runners Meghan Conway and Meghan Sullivan look to make their mark on the Pride this fall.
“[They are] not afraid to get out there and compete with other top women,” Steinman said.
Focus and dedication have been of importance to this year’s team. One thing that has been started is the “weekly theme.” Each team gets together at the beginning of the week to set a new “theme of the week.”
“I think that will help us stay focused so you won’t forget why you do what you do,” Lachapelle said.
On the men’s side, a top three finish was at their fingertips in 2021. This season, that’s the expectation.
“This year, we’ve been talking about closing up the packs with some of our top runners,” Steinman said.
Seniors Aidan Harmer and John DeRosa hope to make their final season a good one, while junior Chris Vayda aims to build off his past success. Harmer, a talented runner who has battled injuries in years past, is already turning heads in his first official collegiate cross-country season.
“He’s already making an immediate impact,” Steinman said.
Vayda has been on fire; finishing first in both races for Springfield, and leading them to a first place finish in the first meet. Sophomore Joe Wong hopes his success running mid-distance in track translates to the cross country courses.
Steinman believes Wong will be an integral part in his second season with the Pride.
“[Joe] is definitely someone to watch out for moving up within the team,” Steinman said.
Although the team is coming off an admirable 4th place finish, and the NEWMAC conference tournament is over 40 days away, the focus is still very important.
“You have to do the right things now, you have to see the big picture,” DeRosa said, referring to the tournament.
The Pride have had two good meets so far with the first at Highland Park, and this past weekend at UMass Dartmouth. Both the men and women haven’t finished any lower than 12th, and they hope this is a sign of things to come.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics