Family by family, parents packed the Quinnipiac cross country course at the 2006 Quinnipiac Invitational on Sept. 22, enjoying the festivities of Senior Day.
But on this particular day, the story would be an overlooked freshman.
Kristen Stevens, the first recruit in QU history to run a sub-5 minute mile in high school, coasted to a first place finish in her Bobcat debut. The rangy freshman from New Jersey left many opponents in the dust, surging in front of a pack of Bobcat harriers.
“I’m not going to sit here and say I expected that,” coach Shawn Green said. “It was an amazing performance (by Kristen).”
Stevens was clocked at 18:23, threatening the course record held by All-American Katie Gwyther, who graduated in May.
Stevens jumped into a comfortable lead for the first mile and a half, as the runners made their way through the center of campus, and never looked back. Her lead went from comfortable to insurmountable during the race’s final stretches.
Stevens was bitten by the injury bug at the start of the season and only had a few weeks of training under her belt. The race certainly puts her on the radar as a runner to watch this year.
“I had no expectations (coming into the race), so this is a great feeling to come back to,” Stevens said.
Pack running, which has always been instrumental to success for the women’s cross country team, was pivotal as the Bobcats cruised to first place in what turned out to be a laugher of a meet.
“We’re always looking to run like a pack, so they were able to pull it off today,” Green said. “I think they did a great job with it. The pack running is going to be key for us the whole season.”
The Bobcats concluded the race with a score of 21. They defeated second-place finisher Marist College, which had 72, by a whopping 51 points in one of the most lopsided races in recent memory. The Rams of Rhode Island finished third, followed by Brown, Northeastern, Wagner, Hartford and New Haven.
The first three runners to cross the finish marks were all sporting Bobcat uniforms and four of the top five finishers were Bobcats.
Following Stevens was graduate student and captain Jenna Nechamen (second place/18:57) and junior Susan Ashe (third place/19:02).
Sandwiched in between Marist’s Sarah Domermuth and Northeastern’s Kristie Gagnon was freshman Lindsey Pierret, who garnered Rookie of the Week honors after her first race this year.
Ashley Reichelt and Erin O’Connell placed tenth and eleventh respectively. Abbey Gosling took 17th, fending off Northeastern’s Amy Hicks with a strong kick over the last mile. QU’s Heather Hoffman followed a second behind Hicks in 19th place while Tara Watson and Caitlin Brady concluded the race in 24th and 25th place, respectively.
“We all worked together,” said a breathless Stevens of the team effort. “Our team did so well today, and I’m so proud of everyone.”
Green was impressed, but he knows there’s ample space for improvement.
“We certainly have a lot of work to do still,” he said. “We can get a lot better still, which is exciting.”
The men’s team was also victorious with an overall score of 37 points. UConn finished in second with a score of 52.
For the men, John Ciccarelli broke a course record with a time of 25:25.6. The previous record was held by Tom Martin.
Michael Charron and Matt Warren fared well for the Bobcats finishing fifth and sixth respectively.
The women’s team, which was ranked 12th out of 62 teams in the first New England Collegiate Cross Country Poll of the 2006 season, resumes action on Oct. 7 at the New England Championships at Franklin Park in Boston. The men’s team will join the women at the same event.
Prior to the meet, a flag sent to Quinnipiac from US Army 1st Lt. Peter Pollard was raised. Pollard is currently stationed in Afghanistan. Before joining the Army, he was a member of the QU men’s cross country and track program from 2000 to 2003. Pollard asked that the flag be flown at the meet as his way of saying `Thank You’ to his teammates, coaches and Quinnipiac University.