True Cross Country Race

Shun Hasegawa

The ex-hurricane Ivan’s final effort to show off his existence succeeded in converting the UMass Dartmouth Invitational course into a flood on Saturday, September 18. One more bad thing he left? He hit UMB the hardest.

Coach Fitzgerald commented about his women’s team’s blunder, “Some of our runners didn’t put on spikes today. It was a huge disadvantage on such a rainy day.” As they failed to step firmly on a muddy and sloppy surface, the champion of the last week’s Massachusetts Maritime Invitational finished at the twenty-seventh place among thirty three competitors in their second race of the season.

Sophomore Sarah Shapiro, winner of the last race and the Little East Conference’s Runner of the Week, finished the race at the hundred-twenty-first place among two hundred and fifty five participants, though still the first finisher among the team’s five runners. “This race was really tough because the course was too wet. And I didn’t put on my spikes. That was why my time was a kind of slow today.” Shapiro commented with some dirt on her face. Her finish time for 3.1 miles slipped from 19:03 last week to 21:24, or 3:03 behind a winner.

To minimize a struggle of the team’s ace, Sophomore Emily Schwan finished at the hundred-sixty-second place at 22:27. Despite the harsh conditions, Schwan completed the race with the same finish time as she did last week. Following her was senior Eun-Joo Sohn who reached the goal thirty eight seconds later at the hundred-eighty-third place. Sohn said of her challenge of the season, “I was a little bit slower for the last mile. I need more strength to have a better race.”

Sophomore Leslie Blangiforte and Rachel Gazda finished not far behind from their teammates at the two-hundred-sixth and two-hundred-fifteenth places with the records of 23:53 and 24:17 respectively.

Brown University dominated the contest by occupying five spots, among the first ten finishers to win the title, followed by Amherst College.

As for the Beacons’ men’s team, freshman Mike Leavitt, fourth place in his collegiate debut last week, alone represented UMB in the men’s varsity race. Leavitt once advanced to the ninety-third position with half a way to go. However, his trademark final burst was offset by surrounding runners with longer careers. He was eventually at the hundred-first place among two hundred thirty six runners, or the fourteenth best among fifty four freshmen. His record was 28:01, or 3:31 behind a winner. He himself stayed confident about his progress, “[The result was] good. In the Last race, I was 28:27. Today I got almost under 28:00.” Leavitt commented in his second race at college level.

Bates College closely went ahead of Brown University to obtain a victory and to prevent the Ivy leaguer from winning both men’s and women’s competitions. But far more breathtaking was domination by the Japanese college all-stars who monopolized six of the first seven finishers. They were invited to run two races in New England as a part of the 100th anniversary of Japan Society of Boston.

Sophomore Thy Toeum and Jason Zugian ran in the men’s subvarsity race among hundred and twenty eight competitors. Toeum and Zugian, during the most of the race, accompanied with each other to finish the race close to the rear of the race.

The UMass Dartmouth Invitational hosted more than thirty teams with nearly seven hundred and fifty runners from all over New England and some from outside. Serious contenders include NCAA national championship qualifiers, Brown University and Trinity College.

Despite of the competitive race on a stormy day without spikes, Fitzgerald was satisfied with his squad, “I’m really happy about their performance. Especially, [Leavitt, Sohn and Schwan] ran much better than I expected. Also, it must be a good experience for them to compete with tougher runners. And they still finished at good positions. This is a big progress.”

UMB Men’s team, with only three runners, was not qualified to compete as a team in the event, while a minimum of five is required. This urgent situation made the team as desperate as trying to recruit this writer. By the way, to those who might be interested but still hesitate to join, Fitzgerald’s following comment might push you to knock a door of his office. “Cross country is not all about competition with other runners. Some of our runners don’t run so fast. But if they finish with a better record than before, that’s a win for them.” Before the season began, Fitzgerald said he would welcome both experienced and inexperienced. He can be reached at 617-287-6788 or [email protected].

Beacons are scheduled to run seven more races until November 13. They will be in action on Saturday, September 25 at Rhode Island College Invitational.