In a week where the sporting world so history made with the vanquishing of an 86-year-old curse, history was also made with the first ever NEC Championship for the men’s cross country program on Saturday. The meet was held at Quinnipiac for the first time in school history and Quinnipiac graduate student Thomas Martin of Commack, N.Y. was the first overall finisher in the race with a time of 25:57.
Martin had to battle the elements as well as the competitors as a rain sodden course were not optimal conditions for a quick and speedy race. Martin clashed with Chad Hartzell of St. Francis University the entire race before taking the lead with about a mile to go. Martin said of his performance, “It is the pinnacle of the season. [Hartzell] took it out hard but I just had to stay with him.”
Coach Ed O’Connor could not be happier for his team and all of the performances were phenomenal he said. “It is hard to put into the words the feeling I have. This was our goal in mind the whole season.”
In what has been a record-breaking season overall for the Bobcats, the NEC Championships was a culmination of heart and dedication that only the runners may know. Battling through key injuries, the Bobcats prevailed over five time consecutive NEC champs St. Francis.
A key to the Bobcats victory was their ability to keep their pack together. With a score of 29 points, there were breakout races up and down the line as the five scorers for Quinnipiac all finished in the top 12. Junior Jeffrey Roginielewicz of Derby Conn. was the second overall finisher with a time of 26:01 as he surged passed Hartzell with about 800 meters to go. Junior Gregory Brink of Babylon, N.Y. was sixth overall and the third finisher of Quinnipiac as he finished with a time of 26:18. Right behind Brink was freshman Jacob Gurzler of Ballston Lake, N.Y. as he finished eighth overall in 26:22.
Graduate students Greg Toomey of Smithtown N.Y. and Andrew Best of Manchester Conn. finished 12th and 13th with times of 26:27 and 26:28 to round out the all conference finishers from Quinnipiac.
After the meet, Coach O’Connor was named NEC “coach of the year.” What makes this meet remarkable is the fact that the Bobcats competed without one of their top runners junior Mark Driscoll of Milford, Mass. Driscoll was not running due to injury, but was there in support of his team none the less. “I couldn’t believe how gutsy everyone ran today. The worst part is not to be a part of it. I wouldn’t have cared if I was first or seventh, but I had total confidence in the team.”
The women’s program also made history as they had their highest finish in conference history as they placed second to St. Francis losing by only two points. Junior Katie Gwyther of Madison, N.H. was the first overall finisher as she set a new course record with a time of 18:03 over the five kilometer course. One of the other positives was the performance of freshman Caitlin Brady of West Sayville, N.Y. as she placed fourth overall with at time of 19:04. Brady was named NEC conference freshman of the year. Both women earned All Conference accolades.
The men’s and women’s programs will hope to take their historical performances to the Northeast Regional Championships in Van Cortlandt Park, N.Y. on November 13. In a week of history-making performances throughout the sporting world, the 2004 Bobcats have sealed their place among Quinnipiac’s own elite runners of all time.