Title run complete: Women’s cross country crowned MAAC champions

Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

Quinnipiac took home its first conference championship of the 2022 school year on Saturday. Despite what you may think, it was neither one of the nationally ranked ice hockey teams or conference-leading soccer teams who claimed the title.

That distinction would go to the women’s cross country program.

The Bobcats’ win is their second ever MAAC title, the first since 2015. With only 26 total points, Quinnipiac became the lowest-scoring championship school since Iona in 2018 (21 points).

Leading the pack was graduate student Emily Young, who came in second place overall, and junior Liv DiStefano, who reached new heights with her career-best third-place finish. Not to be outdone, three more Bobcats placed in the top nine, earning All-MAAC honors and launching an upset over the favorite Iona Gaels, who finished third.

Young, the face of this program, reached the top-10 in the conference meet for the third time in her collegiate career. After finishing in both sixth and seventh in the past, the 2019 All-MAAC team member recorded a career-best second place finish. Her 21:23.2 time in the 6K was just 13 seconds behind Siena graduate student Olivia Lomascolo for Saturday’s best performance.

Rounding out the top three was DiStefano, who was running in her third-straight conference championship. While her performance on Saturday takes the cake for her best as a Bobcat, she has cracked the top five in all three of her trips to the MAAC’s biggest race.

Freshman Rachel St. Germain (fifth place), junior Alessandra Zaffina (seventh place) and junior Corinne Barney (ninth place) all rounded out the championship effort for Quinnipiac, who traveled almost 150 miles to the host site of Loudonville, New York.

Zaffina was another runner who had a personal-best performance on Saturday. The Trumbull, Connecticut, native clocked a 21:41.6 finish. Her seventh-place standing was the highest of her collegiate career as well.

Cameron Levasseur

Looking past the team title as a whole, a few Bobcats were personally honored this past weekend as well. St. Germain, a Somers, Connecticut, native, was awarded the 2022 MAAC Rookie of the Year as well as being named to the MAAC All-Rookie Team. Since the award was introduced back in 2016, St. Germain joins Kaitlin Bakas as the only Bobcats to win the conference’s rookie award.

While the five at the pinnacle may get more of the conference-wide recognition, the whole program exceeded expectations. Sophomore Grace Michaud (22:42.6), junior Ana Caliri (23:14.0), junior Asia Mercier (23:23.0) and sophomore Christina Gunsalus (24:13.7) all recorded personal bests in the 6K race.

But all great teams start at the top and for these Bobcats, it begins with head coach Carolyn Martin. The 13-year veteran continued her excellent coaching career in Hamden with the MAAC title, and did not leave empty handed personally either. Martin was awarded the conference’s Coach of the Year for the second time in her Quinnipiac tenure, the first being in 2015 in the wake of the program’s first MAAC championship.

In addition to the on-course honors, nine different Bobcats were named to the MAAC All-Academic Team this past weekend, tying for fourth in the conference. Quinnipiac’s honorees (Young, DiStefano, Zaffina, Barney, Caliri, Mercier, senior Clare Veverka, and graduate students Cassidy Phillips and Marisa Keiser) all qualified for the second-straight year.

So what is next for Quinnipiac this season? On Nov. 11, it will head to Columbia for the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships, which have historically been a challenge for the Bobcats. The team’s best finishes were in 2005, 2007 and 2008, where the Bobcats finished 14th each time. In order to reach the national championship, Quinnipiac would have to place top two in the regional meet or be selected as one of 13 at-large bids from the nine regionals.

Time will tell if this 2022 edition of Quinnipiac can crack the top-10 for the first time in program history, but based off of this past weekend’s outcome, don’t be surprised to see some more hardware return to Hamden in the near future.