By Mike Crossley
Senior Christian Gonzalez led the men’s cross country team to a third-place finish, while the women finished in seventh at the MAAC Championship last Friday in Hammonasset State Park.
Gonzalez finished first for the men with a time of 24:28.0 on the 8,000-meter course, and was the only runner overall to compete against powerhouse Iona. Iona, currently ranked fourth in the country, managed to win its 20th straight race. Gonzalez was the only non-Iona runner to finish amongst the top six performers.
“I expected Chris to perform very well, as he has every meet this season,” said head coach Bob Hamer. “He went in prepared to challenge the Iona runners but they were very tough. Chris is a great runner and they were just better.”
Gonzalez finished in third place, best ever for a Bronc at the MAAC Championships. Gonzalez has shown improvement this year after he finished 12th of 127 runners last year.
Along with Gonzalez’s impressive performance was senior Michael Soroko, who placed 21st with a time of 26:11.6, and junior Michael Lindner who finished 22nd in 26:12.8 among the 130 runners. Both runners improved since last year’s event.
Also for the Rider men, sophomore Sean Donohue finished 34th in 26:36.8 and sophomore Sean McCullough was 35th in 26:37.8.
“The men competed hard and they were able to obtain a decent result. We were hoping to be more competitive with Marist for second place but it just did not happen,” Hamer said.
On the women’s side, their performance wasn’t construed as a major disappointment, because of their youth and their injuries. There were still runners such as Chelsea Callan, Erin Fitzgibbons, Nicole Tassello and Kelli Kaelin who cashed in good results.
“We have some injuries on the women’s side that have had an effect on our team results,” Hamer said.
Senior Chelsea Callan ran the 6,000-meter course with a time of 22:56.4, finishing 24th among 124 runners. Younger talent, such as sophomore Erin Fitzgibbons, placed 32nd in a time of 23:14.2, sophomore Jillian Shutt finished 40th in 23:28.1, sophomore Nicole Tassello came in 44th with a time of 23:41.6, and junior Kelli Kaelin ended in 45th with a time of 23:53.0.
“Erin Fitzgibbons, Nicole Tassello, and Kelli Kaelin all ran great races and made big strides this week,” Hamer said. “I am real excited for them and I think this will give them great confidence moving forward.”
The team’s next event is Nov. 13 at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional at Penn State.
This will be a big race for Gonzalez if he hopes to compete for Nationals. He will have to finish among the top four individuals at the race that are not qualifying teams.