The men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete in the Big East Championship this Friday, Oct. 28 at Van Cortland Park in Bronx, N.Y.
The Big East is filled with multiple top-notch teams, including three ranked in the top-10 in the country: Providence, Georgetown and Villanova. While the Pirates look to be heavy underdogs, they have multiple runners from both their men’s and women’s teams that will look to compete with the best of the conference.
The men’s team will be led by its strong and experienced junior class. Louis Bustamante, Bryant Cordova and Jake Simon each had big seasons for the Pirates. Senior Sean Kip will also play an important part in the Pirate’s hopes of an upset.
The women’s team is led by sophomore Kiley Britten and juniors Emily Johnson and Christiana Rutkowski. Senior Desyre Blackburn will also be counted on to place well in her last Big East Championship. Rutkowski made it clear that upperclassmen experience and training will allow them to compete at the highest level.
“We have the confidence and training, and we know how good we can run,” Rutkowski said. “Based on our workouts, we are all in great shape and have the ability to run some great times.”
However, the X-factor might be this year’s breakout runner, Jared Moser. The sophomore has improved from his freshman season and capped off his breakout year by leading the Pirates to a fourth-place finish in their last race at Lafayette College. He finished in 12th place, while the next Pirate was more than 10 runners behind, finishing 23rd. Coach John Moon has been impressed with Moser’s performance.
“Last year he was so far back,” Moon said. “But through training and hard work he has slowly come of age. He started out 14th, but might be in my top three now.”
That is the kind of unforeseen improvement that has turned many Pirates into solid runners in the ultra-competitive Big East.
“Guys like him are going to step it up because they believe they can run with the best,” Moon said.
“You have to focus on your own race, it’s a race against yourself,” Moser said. “I think as long as we are confident in our training and preparation everything will come together just fine.”
Luckily for the Pirates, they have some familiarity with the course and terrain at Van Cortland Park since both teams ran there Oct. 7 and had decent results.
The men’s team placed fifth out of 10 and the women’s team were ranked sixth of 11.
Their experience on the course will only serve as an advantage when they return.
“Many of these schools and runners are from the Midwest and are used to running on flat ground,” Moon said. “This course is challenging and has a lot of hills so it will give them more difficulty. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”
Andrew Lombardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Anlombardo8.