Undersized and overlooked: cross country poised to make noise in the Big East Championship

Despite being one of 30 Div. I programs to have a cross-country program and not track and field, the revitalized Seton Hall men’s and women’s cross country teams look to finish with the highest scores in school history.

“This year, we’ll probably finish with the highest score ever for women’s cross country in Seton Hall history,” head coach John Moon boasted. “They’ve been just that good.”

The landscape of the women’s team, who finished eighth in last year’s championship, has completely changed. The Pirates were paced by then-junior Christiana Rutkowski, who finished just outside of the top-30 in the 100-person 6K race.

Photo via SHU Athletics

Moon spoke highly of the new team’s transition after replacing its best runner and continuing to win meets. Underclassmen like Emma Newgarden, who has two wins this year, and twins Emily and Olivia Hernandez, who each have multiple top-five finishes, have paced the Pirates’ new wave of runners.

“Last year, we did not have anyone to run behind Christiana, we had a big gap between my first, second, third and fourth runners,” Moon said. “This year, I have seven girls running together, which is hard to come by. We’re better as a team rather than individuals and we’re excited about that.”

On the men’s side of cross country, the team will look to continue its strong start, albeit without one of the team’s best runners, Jesse Southard. Southard finished first at the Cappy Anderson Invitational, top-20 at the Embry-Riddle Classic and added another top-10 finish as he placed sixth in the 8K Stony Brook Invitational.

“It’s a tough loss for us because I expected him to finish in the top-25, he’s that good,” Moon said. “Jarod [Moser] is a guy who I expect to step up, after finishing 35 out of 100 last year in the championship. Going into the event, I thought we had a good one-two punch with Jarod and Jesse, but the young guys on the team will still do well.”

Moon emphasized the importance of the opening mile for men’s team. If many of the Pirates can become a part of the frontrunners after a mile, he believes that can disrupt the game plan of the other top schools. The mental aspect of running generally weighs heavily on teams, so the fast start can help to further motivate the team sans Moser.

In the only event in which the Pirates faced another Big East team, the Metropolitan Championship, Seton Hall outscored St. John’s by more than 50 points in women’s cross country.
Two years ago, Seton Hall ran against St. John’s in the Metropolitan Championship and finished higher, but not by a large margin. When the Big East Championship came, the roles were reversed as the Red Storm finished higher. This year’s team has demonstrated its ability to dominate against a conference foe, which will help boost the team’s morale.

“With no pressure, we can be the spoilers in the championship,” Moon said. “We can run with anyone and other teams are aware of the ability of our women, they are aware of girls. The guys, they may not be concerned with, but know they have to step it up or be surprised. After Georgetown, Providence and Villanova competing for top spots, the rest of the field will be up for grabs as anyone can falter.”

Evando Thompson can be reached evando.thompson@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @Thompsev.

Author: Evando Thompson

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