The men’s and women’s cross country teams started off the season strong at the Blue/Gold Invitational, a 5K event hosted by the College this year, on Saturday Aug. 30.
Senior Tara Nealon took third with a time of 19:17.00, only two seconds behind her forerunner from Rider, one of two Division I schools at the meet. The other school was St. Joseph’s University.
This was in addition to the women’s team having six other runners in the top ten, four of them being ties. Seniors Jillian Manzo and Liz Johnson tied for ninth with a time of 20:05.00. Freshman Allison Fournier and senior Megan Stack tied for seventh with a time of 19:55.00.
“Overall, I think that everyone had a great performance at our season opening meet,” Stack said. “We have been training all summer to prepare for this season, and I think that we are off to a strong start.”
Sophomore Laura Straub crossed the finish line sixth with a time of 19:45.00 and her teammate, senior Carly Martz, crossed fourth with a time of 19:27.00.
“Both of those programs have very talented runners and it was really cool to get out there and see some good competition,” sophomore Andrew Tedeschi said. “It’s always fun to race against some Division I programs because it gives us a chance to show them how good some Division III schools are.”
The men’s team fared just as well as the women’s team, with the Lions holding six of the top eleven spots in the race. Tedeschi ranked second out of 48 runners in the event with a time of 16:08.00.
Senior Andrew DeMaria tied for 10th with Mike Pionnola from Rider University with a time of 16:23.00. Sophomore Brandon Mazzarella and juniors Scott Savage and Roberto Guiducci came in ninth, eighth, and sixth place respectively, with Guiducci tying with Rider runner Daniel Belay for sixth.
Two seconds behind Tedeschi was freshman recruit Dale Johnson, earning third in his first ever race for the College. Both Stack and Tedeschi praised the freshmen recruits’ ability to adapt to college cross country.
“Transitioning from high school to college running can be a tiresome and nerve-racking process,” Stack said. “However, the freshmen on our team have all been doing a great job with this transition, and I am proud at how confident they were during their first collegiate race.”
Tedeschi said the freshmen are “adjusting really well to the harder training.” College runners have nearly twice the amount of mileage compared to high school runners – high school runners do 40-50 miles per week whereas college runners do 70-90.
Alumni from Rider, St. Joseph’s and the College were allowed to compete at the event as well. Stack, being a senior, was on the same team as many of these alumni over the course of her collegiate running career.
“It is always nice to see how many alumni come back to show their support for TCNJ’s cross country team,” Stack said.