By Shanna O’Mara
The cross-country team competed at the Eastern Championships at Van Cortlandt State Park in the Bronx, New York on Nov. 21. In the last races of the season, the women placed fifth overall at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships, while the men placed 18th out of 21 teams at the IC4A Championships.
Senior Emily Ritter finished her last season running for the Broncs. She admitted to being a little disappointed in her finish because she had been dealing with a minor injury. She had hoped that the team would finish in a better position than fifth, but she was still proud that she and fellow senior Nicolette Mateescu finished with All-East honors.
“I had been experiencing abdominal pain lately in races and workouts so I didn’t quite have the race I initially hoped for,” Ritter said. “As a team, we had hoped to finish a little higher than fifth. We also had a few athletes who weren’t able to race due to injury.”
Ritter and Mateescu led the women while earning All-East honors. Ritter covered the 5,000-meter course in 17:58, placing fourth among 80 runners. Mateescu placed 11th in 18:27.
“I felt pretty good throughout the race, although it was also a bit sentimental because it was my last cross-country race,” Mateescu said. “Getting All-East meant a lot to me because it was my last cross-country season as a Rider Bronc.”
Ritter agreed, and mentioned that she is looking toward what the future has in store for her.
“I was a little disappointed in my performance, but to earn All-East honors for a second time is very exciting,” Ritter said. “I was excited for my teammate Niky who earned All-East honors as well. I am sad to leave my collegiate career behind, but I am also excited to see where my running career takes me post collegiately.”
Also for the women, graduate Katie Kinkead was 43rd in 19:44, and senior Stephanie Welte placed 47th in 19:55. Freshman Katie Chinery placed 68th, covering the course in 21:05.4.
Sophomore Danniel Belay was the top finisher for the men’s team, placing 30th of 183 runners, completing the five-mile course in 26:42.
“My race plan going into the meet was to go out comfortably and aggressively from the gun, and I think I was definitely able to achieve that,” Belay said.
Junior Brad Kaufmann placed 58th in 27:10, junior Connor Szwetkowski placed 105th in 28:04, junior Phil DeFroscia was 123rd in 28:31 and sophomore Mike Pinnola was 133rd in 28:33.
Although the men did not place as high as they had hoped, Belay is confident that they can use this upset as motivation for future competition.
“In terms of the team finish, it was tough to swallow, and we just did not live up to our full potential for the season,” he said. “As a team, this was a very disappointing season for us, and we’ll have to learn from it going into next cross-country season. I felt that my season individually was good but not great, and there are areas that I can improve on going forward.”
Both the men and women will move forward to the indoor track season, beginning on Dec. 11. The Princeton New Year’s Invite will offer runners the chance to demonstrate their work during the offseason, and it will lead to the Rutgers Invitational and other large meets held in early January.
“I am looking forward to indoor track,” Mateescu said. “I enjoy the one week of downtime to regroup and rejuvenate, but then it is fun getting into stuff on the indoor track. Track is totally different, so I am excited to see what this year brings for the team.”
As for Ritter, she leaves Rider as one of the best athletes the university has ever seen. Last season, she became the program’s first woman to qualify for the NCAA Championships, where she achieved All-American status after a ninth-place finish.