By Jonathan Gault
September 16, 2016
BOSTON — The No. 3 Providence women and unranked Dartmouth men made statements of a different kind on a sunny, warm afternoon at Franklin Park on Friday.
Providence, expected to roll in the women’s race, did just that, going 3-4-5-6-7 with a miniscule seven-second spread to cruise to the women’s title at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown despite holding out 2015 All-Americans Samantha Jones and Catarina Rocha plus Lauren Mullins (62nd at NCAAs last year). Individually, New Hampshire’s Elinor Purrier (17:06) prevailed over home favorite Isabelle Kennedy of Boston College (17:13) to claim top honors.
In the men’s race, with No. 6 Arkansas keeping three of its top runners (Jack Bruce, Andrew Ronoh and Austen Dalquist) on the sidelines, the race was a more open affair, and the Big Green of Dartmouth took advantage, upsetting No. 20 Providence by placing all five scorers in the top 12. The Razorbacks still got one win with Brit Alex George cruising to the individual title in 24:09.
The women’s race went off first and by one mile the race had already taken shape. Purrier, Kennedy and Providence’s Sarah Collins had already broken away up front, splitting 5:17. The Friars’ #2 through #5 runners followed about five seconds behind, with the main pack a further five seconds back. Not much changed a mile later (10:54 for the leaders), though Kennedy and Purrier had begun to create some slight separation as they prepared to head into the Wilderness Loop. Coming out of the Wilderness, Purrier had a clear lead and hit the Playstead Loop on Franklin Park’s main field (about 400 meters remaining) with a five-second lead over Kennedy and an even bigger gap on a fading Collins. Kennedy battled bravely but could not reduce the deficit as Purrier, a 4:29 miler, won in 17:06. Collins crossed six seconds later and the rest of the Providence pack followed in short order to give the Friars a commanding victory, 25 to 79 over runner-up Dartmouth.
“It was pretty solid. I just wanted the four women behind Sarah to run together today and they did the job nicely,” Providence coach Ray Treacy said.
The men’s race took a little longer to get going, perhaps understandable given the extra three kilometers. It went out quickly, 4:44 at the mile, though the pack remained huge at that point. At two miles (9:47), there was still a large group at the front, consisting mostly of Arkansas, Providence and Dartmouth runners.
George had begun his push by the time the field hit the Playstead field for the first time, and he passed 5k with a three-second lead in 15:24. At that point, the team race was very tight with the top three squad — Dartmouth (43 points), Providence (49) and Arkansas (57) — separated by just 14 points. As George exited the Wilderness for the second and final time and headed on to Bear Cage Hill and the finish, it was clear that he was not going to be challenged. The question was, would he have a team title to celebrate as well?
Though teammate Frankline Tonui managed eighth place behind George’s 24:09 win, the Hogs felt the absence of Bruce, Ronoh and Dalquist and both they and Providence lost ground over the final three kilometers. Dartmouth, however, picked up three places and put all five finishers in the top 12 behind top man Daniel Salas in third (24:29). That was enough to overcome the Friars who, like Dartmouth, put three in the top 10 but lost points at the #4 and #5 spots.
Results and video interviews (including one with Molly Huddle, who was in Boston as a spectator) below.
Men’s top 20 results + teams (full results here)
|20||20||42||Sean Burke||SO||Boston College||15:34||25:02||5:03|
1. Dartmouth, 40
2. Providence, 50
3. Arkansas, 61
4. Brown, 93
5. Maine, 183
6. UMass, 206
7. UMass Lowell, 236
8. Boston College, 238
9. Fordham, 260
10. High Point, 278
11. UNH, 286
11. Vermont, 299
12. Rhode Island, 394
13. Northeastern, 401
14. Hartford, 449
Women’s top 20 results + teams (full results here)
|1||1||221||Elinor Purrier||JR||New Hampshire||10:31||17:06||5:30|
|2||2||27||Isabelle Kennedy||SO||Boston College||10:31||17:13||5:33|
|9||9||335||Heather MacLean||JR||UMass Amherst||10:54||17:46||5:43|
|12||12||19||Paige Duca||FR||Boston College||10:52||17:54||5:46|
|14||14||371||Jaclyn Solimine||SR||UMass Lowell||11:06||17:55||5:46|
|15||15||29||Laura Leff||SO||Boston College||10:55||17:56||5:47|
|16||16||364||Nicole Murphy||FR||UMass Lowell||11:08||17:57||5:47|
1. Providence, 25
2. Dartmouth, 79
3. Brown, 103
4. Boston College, 112
5. UMass Lowell, 118
6. UNH, 132
7. Vermont, 184
8. UMass, 209
9. Northeastern, 252
10. Fordham, 308
11. Rhode Island, 322
12. Maine, 372
13. Hartford, 374
Quick Thought #1: The win was nice for the Providence women, but Ray Treacy knows there’s plenty of room for improvement
“The team that ran today is, I think, a top-10 team,” Treacy said. “That’s about all I would say right now. Until I get everybody else back, it’s hard to tell.”
Treacy said that he expects Collins to improve as the season goes along. Collins struggled to hold on to the leaders today and her teammates almost caught her at the end of the race, but Treacy said that she’s generally a slow starter but races herself into shape. She was only fourth in this race last year (granted she did run 24 seconds faster in 2015) but wound up 20th at NCAAs and a similar jump this fall would not be surprising.
Providence faces a major test in two weeks at the Notre Dame Invitational, where it faces No. 1 New Mexico and No. 5 NC State. Treacy said he won’t hold back his pack in that one, and the Friars will also get back two-time All-American Catarina Rocha. That meet is still early in a season that stretches until mid-November, however, and Treacy said he probably won’t know who his top group will be until the Wisconsin Invite on October 14.
On the men’s side, Providence got a strong run out of senior Julian Oakley (2nd, 24:25) but needed its pack to finish closer together.
“There were a few disappointing performances there but that’s why we run the races, to find out where we are at and hopefully see some improvement in two weeks’ time,” Treacy said of his men.
Off-camera, I chatted with Treacy briefly about his athlete Molly Huddle’s marathon prospects (she’s making her debut in NYC in November) and he was optimistic, though he admitted that because of the quick turnaround between the Olympics and NYC (12 weeks), he doesn’t have time to incorporate his full marathon buildup. Treacy said that could be a good thing, however, as she won’t be as fatigued and it will hopefully keep her legs a bit sharper late in the race. He feels that Huddle will run a great marathon at some point in her career, it’s simply a matter of when.
Quick Thought #2: A nice win for the Dartmouth men, who figure to move into the top 30 in the coaches’ poll for the first time since 2013
Dartmouth ran without one of its top guys, 4:02 miler Pat Gregory (who is hurt), today but the Big Green didn’t end up needing him as it recorded an impressive victory, with all five scorers running 24:44 or faster. Arkansas didn’t run close to a full squad today, and after Providence there wasn’t much competition, but an early-season result like this is certainly a good sign. At the very least, Dartmouth appears to be much better than its regional ranking (it entered the day ranked #7 in the Northeast while Providence was #2). With defending national champions Syracuse and perennial power Iona, the Northeast region remains tough, and it’s only mid-September. But if the Big Green can string together a few more performances like today’s, it has a shot at making it to nationals and claiming its first Heps title since 2005.
(Editor’s note: The author is a Dartmouth alum)
Quick Thought #3: Molly Huddle is still getting adjusted to marathon training, comments on Shannon Rowbury take down her American 5k record — “that’s where the record belongs (under 14:40)”
Huddle has a pretty quick turnaround from her 10,000 at the Olympics (August 12) to her marathon debut in New York (November 6) and as such she didn’t waste much time after returning from Rio. She put in one week of no workouts before launching into her buildup, which is still in its nascent stages — she’s only done one really long run. But Huddle said October will a lot harder. In the past, Huddle has run 100+ mile weeks early in the year as part of her base phase, but now she’ll be stringing multiple weeks in that range together back to back, getting up to around 110 mpw. She anticipates that will be a challenge and will bring on a level of fatigue she’s not used to training with.
I also had the chance to ask Huddle about losing her 5k American record to Shannon Rowbury last week. Huddle said she would have loved to have run a fast 5k this year, and with 30:13 10k fitness and a dominant win at the Olympic Trials, it’s clear she was in terrific shape. But Huddle knew that when she committed to run NYC in April that she wouldn’t be able to run the Brussels DL meet (where Rowbury broke the record) and with both Rowbury and Simpson running great in 2016, Huddle figured her record was vulnerable. At the same time, she was excited to see an American break 14:40 for the first time (Huddle’s old record was 14:42) and is looking forward to see how much lower the record can go.
Quick Thought #4: UNH’s Elinor Purrier is shooting for a top-10 finish in her first NCAA XC champs this fall
Purrier last ran cross country in 2014 as she sat out 2015 with a knee injury, and in the interim she’s made a massive jump on the track, as she was third at NCAAs in the mile indoors and in the steeple outdoors in 2016. Back in 2014, Purrier didn’t even make it to NCAAs in cross country, but the Vermont native is shooting for a top-10 finish in Terre Haute this fall. If Purrier can continue to improve after today’s result, she’s certainly got a chance to achieve that goal.
Quick Thought #5: Boston College sophomore Isabelle Kennedy has battled cystic fibrosis her entire life but she has not let the disease define her running experience
Kennedy, who was eighth at ACCs last fall and ran 16:20 on the track last spring, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder affecting the lungs, when she was just 12 days old, but she hasn’t let that stop her from developing into a promising runner. She was second today behind Purrier — a big leap from her 44th place finish a year ago — and was battling for the win in front of her home crowd before running out of gas in the Wilderness.
Growing up in Boulder, Kennedy’s parents kept her active and she said that running has actually helped her lungs stay strong and keep her relatively healthy.
“A lot of people with CF have a much tougher battle than I do so I feel very fortunate that I am as healthy as I am right now,” Kennedy said. “I have a phenomenal doctor here in Boston at Children’s Hospital who is really, really great. I’m lucky that I get to be here, I’m lucky I get to race and I love every second of it.”
Kennedy still struggles with the disease at times, and when it’s really acting up, her condition can sideline her for an entire season. Some people will look hear Kennedy’s story and be inspired, but she said that, when it comes to the reason she runs, she’s no different than anyone else.
“The word inspiration, I have trouble with to some degreee because I don’t do this for that reason,” Kennedy said. “I do this because I love it and because I want to be out here and because it’s just a dream come true and I think every other person out here feels that same way.”
Quick Thought #6: Arkansas’ Alex George is seeking to make amends for a disappointing NCAAs last year
George, who bombed at NCAAs last year (176th) said today’s win felt surprisingly easy and is excited for Arkansas’ season. The Razorbacks host SECs this year and have a legitimate chance to return to the podium for the first time since 2005. He also had high praise for teammate Andrew Ronoh, who ran 28:36 for 10,000 meters in his first outdoor race for Arkansas last season.