Cross Country Looks to Build on Spring Success

Senior Lydia Olivere leads the cross country team after her Olympic trial debut.

Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams had strong seasons last year, and they’ll both want to build off of 2020’s positive momentum heading into 2021. 

The men’s squad had a 2020 campaign that culminated in a 20th-place finish at the NCAA championship meet, its best since a seventh-place finish in 2014. The team will in all likelihood be led by Seniors Josh Phillips and Haftu Strintzos, who were the Wildcats’ top finishers at the 2020 championship meet, 67th and 66th, respectively. 

The team was ranked 21st overall in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association preseason poll. It was unranked for a majority of last season, with its highest appearance in the poll being 27th. It was even unranked at the time of the NCAA championship meet 20th-place team finish. The ‘Cats were also named as the top team in the Mid-Atlantic region headed into 2021. 

Strintzos was named as the Mid-Atlantic Region Men’s Athlete of the Year in 2020 by the USTFCCCA after claiming the Big East men’s individual championship. Head coach Marcus O’Sullivan was named the Mid-Atlantic Region Men’s Coach of the Year after guiding the ‘Cats to a third-place finish at the Big East championship and an at-large bid to the NCAA championship meet. Both Strintzos and Phillips were named to the all-Big East first team, and four other returning Wildcats were named to the all-Big East second team. This leaves O’Sullivan with plenty of options to assemble his scoring team. 

Strintzos will look to lower his personal best times this year. The senior has posted low times of 23:05.2 for 8000 meters and 30:02.9 for 10000 meters. Phillips has the lower 10000-meter time of the two, with his lowest clocking in at 30:02.0. He too will look to shave down that time this season, as well as his 8000-meter time of 23:30.3. 

Men’s cross country has three meets scheduled before the Big East championship meet on Oct. 29. The team will then hope to move on to the NCAA Mid-Atlantic regional meet, followed by the NCAA championship meet in Tallahassee on Nov. 20. 

The women’s team was not ranked in the USTFCCCA preseason poll but did receive votes in the ranking and was named as the fourth best squad in the Mid-Atlantic region heading into the 2021 campaign. Senior Lydia Olivere will likely lead the team, as she looks to improve upon a stand-out individual season that included a third-place finish at the Big East championship meet and a 91st-place finish at the NCAA championship meet. Olivere also made her Olympic trials debut in the 3000-meter steeplechase in 2021. 

Olivere’s lowest race times clock in at 16:22.1 for the three-mile and 20:02.0 for the 6000-meter. She’ll look to improve upon those times over the span of this season’s meets. 

As a whole, the squad is extremely young, with more than half of the roster being underclassmen and only one runner in their final year of eligibility. 

The women’s team has three meets scheduled as well, including one at the University of Wisconsin, which was ranked 29th in the USTFCCCA’s preseason poll. It will then compete in the Big East championship and look to secure either a bid to the NCAA championship meet. 

Whether either of the squads will be able to build off the positive momentum of their 2020 seasons remains to be seen, but there’s plenty of reason for the ‘Cats to be optimistic about their return to the course.