Cross Country

 Men’s and women’s squads hoping to build off of strong finishes to 2013

By Ryan B. Harrison

Sports Editor

Men’s and women’s cross country open their 2014 seasons this Friday when they take part in the Mount Saint Mary’s 5K Duals meet. The Retrievers are hoping to build off a stellar 2013 campaign that saw the men’s team win their first America East Conference championship since 2005 and the women’s team earn an all-time best finish at the conference meet. Both squads have lost some key talent from last season, but retain a core of strong young runners.

The men’s team graduated five seniors over the offseason, and the women’s team will be without both Kirsten McGovern and Cody Mezebish. Graduated seniors Jake Albino, Andrew Smith and Brandan McGee scored in the 2013 championship meet for the men’s team, as did McGovern and Mezebish for the women’s.

The men’s team will look to junior Hassan Omar who paced the team and placed third overall at the AEC championship meet last season. Omar also led the Retrievers to their first top ten finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional meet by placing 22nd overall with a time of 30:30 on the 10K course. The junior was named to the USTRCCCA All-Region team after his performance at the Regional meet.

On the women’s side, junior Nicole Dawson will be the pace setter for the Retrievers. Dawson has scored in every race she has run in her college career, including all five of UMBC’s races last season. She led the Retrievers across the line at the America East Conference Preseason meet and the Salty Dog Invitational at Navy.

The men have the athletes in place to make another run at the Conference title, and the women should be able to build on their fifth place finish, a program best. Head coach Matt Gitterman will be back for his sixth season, and the Retrievers should benefit from the continuity. Gitterman was able to put the men’s program at the top last year, and hopefully he can help the women’s squad do it this season.