strongAngus Dickerson, Beacon Correspondent/strong
At the sound of the starting gun, a rainbow of school colors charged across Franklin Park. The Emerson women’s cross-country team, wearing solid black uniforms, covered the first hundred meters of the race in a tight group, led by first-year captain Heather Hoglund. Its competitors would spread out over the next five kilometers, but Hoglund stayed near the front, finishing the race in 21:15, placing eighth.
The Great Northeastern Athletic Conference (GNAC) cross-country championship, co-hosted by Emerson College and Emmanuel College, was held in Boston for the first time in its 17-year history Saturday afternoon. Emerson’s women’s and men’s teams finished fourth and third respectively.
Freshman Ali Dokus was the Lions’ next female runner in, completing the course 17 seconds after Hoglund for a finish of 14th overall. Georgia Dixon, Molly Pietroski, and Lauren Cortizo rounded out Emerson’s top five. The combination of finishes placed the Lions fourth overall, with Johnson and Wales University claiming the women’s championship.
“The college running crowd has just gotten faster overall,” Hoglund said after the race. She finished second in the same meet last year.
With the temperature seemingly dropping by the second, the men’s race began just minutes after the conclusion of the women’s. The men ran a slightly longer, eight-kilometer, version of the course.
Co-captain Andrew Grzywacz led his team for most of the race, but tailed off during his final lap. It was junior Kyle Oppenheimer who finished as Emerson’s top runner, cruising in at 28:22 for eighth place. Grzywacz still put up his best time all season, finishing at 28:41 in 13th place. The Lions had five runners in the top 21. Senior captain Terry Stackhouse finished 18th, followed by teammates Brandon Fox and Chris Colon in the 20 and 21 spots.
“Physically, this is the best squad we’ve ever had,” Grzywacz said after the race. “Everyone is in top shape this year. It’s amazing.”
Despite the Emerson men’s improvement against the largest field in the event’s history, it would only be good enough for third place. Johnson and Wales claimed the top four spots in the race, decisively winning the school’s fourth straight, and seventh overall, men’s cross-country championship. Norwich University finished second.
With their top 10 finishes, Hoglund and Oppenheimer were named All-Conference Runners. The day’s individual winners were St. Joseph’s College of Maine freshman Amber Dotsie, and Johnson and Wales’ Jeff Hartman. For winning the race, they became the women’s and men’s runners of the year.
Despite frigid gusts of wind and rain that blew in during the award ceremony, the Lions were very upbeat, none more so than 14-year head coach John Furey.
“I think this is best men’s team and the best women’s team we’ve had in the history [of the program],” Furey said after the ceremony. “Even though the women have won it [before], this team was better.”
For most of the Lions’ cross-country team, the season is over. Emerson will send a handful of women’s and men’s runners to the Eastern College Athletic Conference this weekend.
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